Love and Home

Doorway to English class

Love and Home
Is home the familiar place you land each night, or is home where your family gathers? I’d questioned this after being away from my home to attend the very successful and gratifying West Coast ISNA Education Forum recently in Anaheim, California, and also pursuant to shuffling several consecutive days between my home to cook the daily dinner, sleeping at my elderly father’s home to care for his needs, and working a temporary teaching assignment at my former school.
There are the comforting aspects of my home, like my own bed, my routines, seeing my husband and kids in our identified abode, known as home. Somehow, checking in over the telephone was not the same as face-to-face verification that they were healthy and happy.
Yet, while I evaluate, again, the prospect of getting the house ready for sale, I ponder if changing the familiar place in exchange for another is risking the setting that bonds us. If I move, will I disrupt that feeling of being home? Will I regret my decision? Or could it be that home is wherever the people I love are?
My extra few days to enjoy the companionship of friends in Redondo Beach and Glendale, California were enjoyable. Spending time with my dad in the home where I was raised was equally comfortable. Going back to teach in my former school, but in the new building addition, has also been touching a familiar chord. These clues may indicate that home is wherever the people I love are. The adage “home is where the heart is” comes to mind.
Could it be that with every place we go we may leave some favored aspects behind, but we can also create or design new niceties? I believe so; as life is full of change, the adaptable are those who thrive.
Fear may hold us back from opportunity if we are not open to new experiences, and that may mean that happiness may be unrealized. Yet, we never know. I recall many people who have left Chicago only to return because they tried some place new and did not find it to be better for them. Often times, they cited the fact that they missed their family and friends. Therefore, perhaps the strategy when relocating is to meet new people, contribute to the community, and grow new roots. Nice people can be found everywhere, and each new place needs leaders who can help.
Instructive to this point, my son mentioned that he likes community-based video games. He was chatting with three guys from Brazil yesterday, and he truly found satisfaction in connecting with them. He and his friends love this, and it is where he finds his community. Knowing this, I think that relocation will not be disruptive to him, as long as we still have the ability to physically be present to debrief each day. That will be the ultimate challenge though if we are distant from our other children. As a wife and mother, I realize that that is what defines home to me. It is not so much the place, because even meeting at a coffee shop to chat about the day can work; it is seeing those I love and knowing that they are doing well that brings me satisfaction. Home is wherever those I love are, and I want to enjoy my “home” everyday.

Transitions and Making Choices

It isn’t easy facing new challenges and the unknown; in fact, sometimes we drag our feet when we are uncertain of best options for the future. As we approach autumn, Riad and I quickly realized that we had best get the house on the market, even if we still see the details that need repair. We are ready, except for painting our bedroom and sorting out 16 years of clutter in the basement, but the grand question is still unanswered. What should we do if we find a buyer?

Last night, while walking in 50 degree weather, we reminisced about our warm and sunny California trips from earlier in the year. Then we were pulled back into the reality that all four of our children still live with us currently, and our eldest, a nursing student, had his first day of clinicals at the new ultra luxurious Elmhurst Hospital. It would be a dream to work there after graduation, but we want our kids to move with us too. In reality, there are many fine benefits to where we live generally, but the climate and its impingement on our desire to maintain fitness through outdoor activities pall our enthusiasm for staying when it is below 40 degrees. The thought of staying based here, while seeking an investment property in a warmer winter locale that we can visit for a few weeks in January seems attractive.

So transitions are sticky to negotiate, especially when others are involved. The best means of rescue though is when someone else, a trusted ally, can give advice and lessen the anxiety. Likewise, when our youngest son rose in rank to enter high school as a freshman, it was with some amusement that I overheard his older sibling, who is a senior at the same school, coach his younger brother, “Dude, you can’t wear plaid shirts.” “You can’t be seen talking to ______!” “You have to do your Algebra the way the teacher demonstrates it, not just do it in your head.” “This is important for later!” “Dude, if you miss the bus, you can run to the next stop ‘cause they have a lot of kids to load, so you can usually still make it.” “Hey, you can’t pick my friends to be your friends, and you can’t go to the football game until you have friends!” I understood perfectly then when my freshman gloated to his senior brother, “I can go to the football game because I have friends now.”

I recall that when we would transition students from 5th to 6th grade at our pre-K 3 through 12th grade school, we deliberately scheduled an orientation for the students. In the last few weeks of 5th grade, students were privy to shadow 6th grade in order to see what life was like outside the self-contained classroom. Then in the first week of 6th grade, the students were advised that organization was important, and that emotional distress not uncommon. We gave them handouts that specified exactly what they should be expected to do, and teachers usually dovetailed our efforts by holding them to compliance whenever they could. Naturally, all the details were presented in a visually pleasing presentation, and we encouraged students to feel free to talk to any adult if they felt overwhelmed. During Open House, many teachers would also advise parents about expectations and potential pitfalls experienced by many transitional students at 6th and freshman levels.

At the heart of many students’ lack of performance seems to be a deficit in organization and planning, and there is much that individual teachers can do to facilitate the adoption of these in their classes. A review of necessary binders, note taking skills, homework format, and frequent assessment to verify daily effort go a long way to getting students on track. Also, as heightened levels of skill and quality of student products are expected, teachers use rubrics in conjunction with anonymous samples of student work in order for new students to more fully understand what quality work is expected. With timely feedback, students are able to edge their work and performance toward those expectations and feel the satisfaction from their efforts.

This reminds me of the improvement I saw in my golf game this past week. Vexed by my poor performance in putting, I split my score card to differentiate the number of drives versus putts. Knowing that I was having difficulty in “seeing the line” of the putt, I took several putters to the practice putting green and quickly realized that my Daisy putter, from when I first learned to play golf as an 18 year old, was my best fit. It is significantly shorter than other putters collected in my garage too, so sometimes something old is what fits best. Overall, I saw a definite improvement in both drives and putts on a nice little 9 hole executive course, and felt confident that the adage “practice makes perfect” hold true, both for me and my freshman who is hearing that applied to his Algebra, Arabic, and writing. Success feels great! Be sure to make time to take care of your own wellness too!

More insights to transitions for Middle School to High School can be found from William D. Waidelich, Ed.D., Executive Director of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) at this link.