Monthly Archives: November 2015

Thanksgiving Memories

As the holiday of Thanksgiving approaches, memory after memory have been flashing in my head, recalling events that have been indelibly impressed on my mind, never to be forgotten.  For the Smith family, Thanksgiving was the holiday that was always eventful.   When our boys were younger, before my husband went into the ministry, we always traveled to South Carolina to be with family for the holiday.  It was a joyous occasion for us.  We would all gather at grandmother’s house with all of my husband’s family and all of the grandchildren.  It was quite a crew, with 5 children and spouses and then around 12+  grandchildren, plus Great Grandmother Easterlin.  We all had a great time being together.

“O give thanks to the Lord for He is good for His steadfast love endures forever!”                1 Chronicles 16:34

One Thanksgiving the refrigerator was not cooling properly and everyone staying in the house, except Aunt Ann, who had not eaten the turkey, contracted food poisoning.  My husband and I were upstairs with all of the cousins.  I recollect that there were 8 of the kiddos with us.  One by one they woke up scampering to the bathroom to throw up.  I remember helping one of the kids throw up in the sink, while another was at the commode, as another was at the bath-tub throwing up.  I felt as if I was living in a nightmare coming to life.  It was unbelievable!  I just prayed that my husband and I wouldn’t get sick, because we needed to take care of the kids.  No such luck!  I was thankful that the scourge hit us last.

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is God.  His love endures forever.”  Psalm 107:1

Another year during Thanksgiving, we were having a wonderful time with the family and suddenly I started coughing and shivering.  I didn’t have a cold, so it was very bizarre.  I took my temperature and it was 104.  My mother-in- law called her doctor and we hurried to his office.  He listened to my lungs and said that I had pneumonia.  He immediately sent me to the hospital.  I was seriously ill.  The hospital couldn’t find an antibiotic that would be responsive to my infection.  Finally they found one, but I was in the hospital for a week.  My husband needed to get back to NC to work, so he found an ambulance that would take me to the hospital in our hometown.  We decided that he would drive the boys home, while the ambulance was transporting me to our hometown hospital.

As I was led out to the ambulance from the hospital, I was shocked to see that the ambulance was an old hearse!  The two men who were to be my transporters did not seem like that they were skilled technicians.  In fact, I felt that I was back on an episode of Andy of Mayberry with Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle.  The men rolled my bed into the vehicle with me facing the back window.  As we started driving down the road and were on I-95, I was terrified that the back door was going to open and that I was going to roll out and slide right into one of the sixteen-wheeler trucks that I was facing.   All I could do was pray that God would get me home safely.  I had no phone to call my husband, since cell phones were not in existence at that time.

Suddenly I looked down at my I-V and I saw that it was backing up with blood.  I motioned to one of the men in the passenger seat in front and pointed to the I-V.  The men pulled the “ambulance” off of the road to look at the I-V.  When they scoped the situation out, and began discussing the circumstance among themselves, I came to the realization that they had no medical training and that they had no idea what to do!  I was absolutely horrified!!  My prayers were intensified that God would take care of me.  He did.  We were close to Burlington, NC , where they took me to the hospital emergency room. When we got there, the nurses, and doctors were fussing at the drivers, about their negligence in treating me.  I truly saw the reality of my danger at that moment, and how God had taken care of me.  I also was whisked back to Mayberry again and visualized these drivers as the two bumbling men, Barney and Gomer, attempting to do a task that they were in no way qualified to do.

The doctor and nurses at the hospital attended to me and we were quickly back on the road.  Within minutes I was in the arms of my husband at one of the hospitals in my home-town.  God had taken care of me in the worst of situations.  I had so much to be thankful for.  I remained in the hospital for another week and a half, but the time that I had in recuperation was time that I will always fondly remember.  It was a time when I feasted on God and His Word and drew closer to Him.

“Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving, let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise.”  Psalm 95:2

One recollection that I have had this year was that I would always read my sons books about the first Thanksgiving, about the Pilgrims and why they came to America.  We would delve into the history about what really happened long ago and then talk about why we still celebrate Thanksgiving today.  It is even more important that parents read and discuss this now with their children, because in the public schools today, there is very little time to  teach about holidays and the history of them.  Therefore, parents need to do the teaching on this important topic, especially Thanksgiving, because of its religious roots.  There are a lot of different books that are good for different ages.  Here are the names of a few:

  • Thanksgiving Day-                by Gail Gibbons
  • Magic Tree House Book –  Thanksgiving on Thursdayby Mary Pope Osborne
  • Pilgrims  Research Guide- by Mary Pope Osborne
  • On the Mayflower-                 by Kate Waters
  • The Story of the Pilgrimsby Katharine Ross

Another tradition that the boys and I established was that we would chat about all of the things that we had to be thankful for:  all of our clothes, our toys, our house, our food, everything that we owned.  We discussed that God had given us all of these things.  Then I talked with the boys that there were other kids who didn’t have all of the things that we did.  There were other kids who didn’t have enough clothes to wear, who didn’t have enough food to eat, who didn’t have enough toys to play with.  I asked them how they felt about that.  They were very sad about it.  We talked about what we could do about it.   Together, we came up with the idea that we could give some of our clothes, some of our food, and some of our toys to other kids.

Accordingly, what we set out to do, was the following:

  1. We sorted through all of our clothes.  Some clothes we knew were being passed down to our brother.  Some were too worn out to give.  Some clothes were almost like new and never worn much because the boys didn’t particularly care for the style or color. Those were the ones we decided to give away.  We also decided that we were going to choose names from the Angel Tree at church and buy new clothes and toys for the kids we chose.
  2. We looked through our pantry and chose cans and boxed items to give to the Food Pantry at church or to the one at their school that was collecting for families in need.
  3. Then the most difficult job of all!  The boys categorized all of their toys.  They chose the toys that they would keep.  There were some toys that they wanted to give to specific people.  They collected other toys that they were going to give to kids in need.  This act of going through toys also gave the boys an opportunity to get their toys organized and get game pieces back in the right place.

As we engaged in these different activities we would discuss how we were thankful for the clothes and toys that our grandparents had given us, or our aunts and uncles had given us.  We had enjoyed wearing the items or playing with them.  But, now some of the items we had outgrown, some of the toys we had enjoyed playing with, but now we were going to give them to other children so that they could enjoy wearing the clothes or enjoy playing with the toys that we had.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17

In my favorite devotional, Jesus Calling written by Sarah Young, the author writes the devotional from her quiet time with God.  The part she writes is Jesus speaking to her as she has read His Word.  Her writing about thankfulness is very inspiring.  She states:         Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity.  That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything.  You give Me thanks(regardless of your feelings) and I give you Joy(regardless of your circumstances).  This is a spiritual act of obedience.  Those who obey Me are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain.  Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts.  You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective.  It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting of adversity. 

The following resources may be useful during the holidays.

Thankful Jars

Blessings and Giving Thanks Printables

Count Blessings Tree

May God keep you in the palm of your hand.

Debra Smith

Transformation Through Gratitude

Last week the focus of my post was on grief and loss.  The motivation in writing on the topic was not only my own issues, but the fact that there were many people surrounding me that I was aware of who were grieving some type of loss.  Never in my wildest dreams did I fathom that such a horrific event would take place hours before my post was published; the terror attacks in Paris, France!  Talk about grief and loss in gargantuan proportions, not only on a national level, but a world that was left shattered in shock and mourning.  A world waking up to the stark reality that ISIS is not just a problem in the middle east, but that ISIS has waged war on the West, and has threatened to do the same to Washington D.C. as it did to Paris.

Consequently, how are we to make sense of all of this?  Grief and loss are overwhelming.  The threats of attacks from ISIS can make us fearful and filled with anxiety.  Some people turn to alcohol, drugs, and partying, to try to forget their fears and worries.  Some turn to sports, exercise, gaming, or some kind of addiction to lose themselves in.  Some to busyness and work.  I tried the busyness route, and it isn’t a quick fix.  I found that my only rescue is God. I can only turn to God, for I am not in control, but He is. Nothing else truly takes away the grief, the fears, the sadness.  He is the only one who can give me direction, take away my fear, and give me peace, in the midst of a storm.  One of my favorite verses is Deuteronomy 3:22 “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”   God is saying that I need not be afraid, that He, Himself will fight for me.  What comfort that gives me.  Another favorite is John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you:  my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  These are Jesus’ words to His disciples and to us, as well.  He desires to give us His peace, in the midst of the chaos that is going on in the world today.  We can only have that peace by keeping our eyes on Him.  And by seeing our role of praying for our world leaders that they will rely on God to direct them in the decisions that they make on the world stage.  

Amazing transformations can occur when we choose to focus on our blessings instead of our losses.  To focus on the positives instead of the negatives.  To have joy for what the Lord has done for us, instead of sadness for what He has not done.  Gratitude is a gift that not only uplifts our own spirits, but the spirits of those around us, and gives joy and encouragement to all.  Don’t we all need some of that right now?

In the blog, “Inspired by Familia”, Mari states I truly believe that gratitude can be contagious, so let’s shake off the whiney and grumpy mood we can get in, and for the next 21 days become beauty seekers. Let’s train our heart and mind to look for beauty that surrounds us, the big and the small moments.  My hope is that you will find beauty and blessings in the mundane, in the beautiful, in the ugly, as you: change diapers, wash dishes, sit in holiday traffic, stir the pot of soup, look into your loved one’s eyes, hold your child in your arms…We are constantly surrounded by small miracles.  Let’s open our eyes and embrace them.  We can discover joy when we discover gratitude.”  Joy, that is, in your child’s sleepy smile, even in the midst of a world torn with killing and hatred.  Joy, of a small hand in yours, instead of focusing on the fears.  Joy in seeing the glass half-full instead of half-empty.

Mari has 21 Days of Gratitude Prompts that you can use with your family.  You can stop, reflect, and engage in a moment of thankfulness one day during the month using the prompts and actually double up on some of them, since we are getting a late start.   It can be big or small moments that you have of gratitude.  You could let your kids snap a photo or draw a picture that goes along with the prompt.  The kids could write in a journal or type on a computer. They could write on a paper and make it into a card.  Make it as simple or as creative as you like.

21 Days of Gratitude Prompts

Thankful for:

  • Little hands
  • Smiles
  • This moment with________
  • Our health because……….
  • For my spouse
  • For my child___________
  • For my child’s ability to………..
  • For my spouse’s desire to………
  • Today because……….
  • My spouse’s help with………
  • What am I taking for granted?
  • Who am I taking for granted?
  • I appreciate________for______.
  • I am proud of myself for……..
  • I am proud of _____ for ………
  • I conquered the fear of________.
  • I love____about my home.
  • My car is awesome because……
  • _______because it’s beautiful
  • For my child’s_____________.
  • My favorite memory of__________is…………..

You know, in the culture that we live in, particularly here around Washington, DC, everything is rush, rush, rush.  Hurry, hurry, hurry.  When I was teaching, I felt like I got on a treadmill in the middle of August and didn’t get off until the middle of June.  Work was never-ending.  I could never get it all done, and then I had my home-life and my church-life on top of that.  When life is lived on the fast-lane, gratitude can fly right out the window.  You are living on the fly, rushing here and there, often like a chicken with its head cut off.  You do what you have to do to get by.  Life is set on survival mode.  There is no space left in the brain to process the qualities of gratitude.  Ann Voskamp makes a candid statement:  “Hurry always empties the soul.”    My goodness!  Hurry empties the soul!! You mean when I hurry I don’t have time to think about what I have to be thankful for?  Nope.  When I am hurrying do I have time to spend with God?  Not much.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 states:  “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Living with grace in the imperfect is how we find gratitude.” states Ann Voskamp.  “That wobbly table where we gather together with our people is a gift, a holy place to break bread. The old kitchen where we prepare the meals in a stove older than we are is still a gift that will nourish and bless our family.  Those dog smudges, the wet and slimy noses, and joyfully wagging tails waiting on the other side, a gift to remind us to be joyful in all things.  The smashed sofa cushions that don’t seem to improve with fluffing are evidence that this place, this home is a gift because it is lived in and loved on.  Grace grows gratitude so we can see the beauty of what we already have- a home that is a sanctuary, not a showplace.”

What lovely sentiments from the pen of Ann.  God has given her eyes to see the beauty of the things that she has right in front of her, even if they are old and worn.  They have been lovingly used and lived in by her family, so they are something to be grateful for, because they have served a high and holy purpose of raising a family and nurturing a family.  Those are purposes that the highest of praise and gratitude should be extended to.  Even to the most loyal member of the family, the dog, whose wet nose and wagging tail always exude joy.  I know that I have the utmost gratitude this November for my dog, Bella, who has given me such joy and companionship.

Melissa Michaels tried to instill in her kids an attitude shift by practicing the habit of gratitude at home.  She found 3 practical ways to transform attitudes in each room of her house.

  1. Gratitude in the Kitchen                                                                                                                                                                           The kitchen has traditionally been considered the area where nurturing takes place, so as the family prepares food, and cleans up, they can be reminded that the joy and care that they show in taking care of the kitchen that God has provided will establish an atmosphere of gratitude, grace, and love.
  2. Thankfulness in the Dining Room                                                                                                                         See the dining room table as a sacred space to bless your loved ones.  Clear off all of the school supplies you have used for homework, putting all of the clutter away.  Then get a big soapy rag and wipe the table clean.  Kids could help make a seasonal centerpiece.  Arrange candles to set the mood as everyone sits down.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, just have fun with it every night.  Take a moment to look at each face around the table and thank God for them.
  3. Grace in the Living Room                                                                                                                                       Practice a new habit of looking for opportunities to show God’s love to people right there in your living room.  At the end of the day when everyone is tired, offer grace instead of griping.  Say a prayer of gratitude for the mess makers in your home and if necessary, invest in training and correction at a more productive time.     “Dear Lord, thank you for this home and for Your precious Word upon which I can build a solid and beautiful sanctuary for my family.  May gratefulness be ever-present in my heart and home to the glory of Your Name.  Amen.

Proverbs 24:3-4 “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

In a very sweet and poignant moment on the news a reporter taped a French father  explaining  to his young son why he was putting flowers on display among the array of hundreds of others that could be seen along the street.  He stated that it was a way of showing gratitude for those who lost their lives, and that all of the flowers showing thankfulness and love was more powerful than the hatred of the evil men who were committing the killing.  The beauty of this scenario was that the father was modeling for his son the art of having gratitude for lives that he didn’t even know, yet he was bestowing an act of love and thankfulness for them.  Teaching our children to have gratitude is in itself making our children more tender-hearted and sensitive to the needs of others  and gives them the gift of joy in their lives.  In this world where kids are bombarded with materialism, I am finding that less is really better.  

Here are some resources that I hope you will find beneficial.

21 Days of Gratitude for Families

70 Ways to Teach Your Kids Gratitude

Teaching Kids Gratitude

May God keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

Angel’s Tears

Fall is such a wondrous season when the world becomes filled with a tapestry of colors.  It is almost as if God has touched the earth with his paintbrush and with each stroke vividly shown a vast array of hues that permeate the landscape on a clear autumn day.  As a part of all of the beauty is the wind-spun dancing of the leaves as they fall from their branches and the hilarious joy that children have in jumping on those colorful mountains of leaves.  There is also the never-ending task of raking and bagging the leaves as they have descended to the ground.  The leaves change color in the process of dying and cascading off of the trees, as fall is readying itself for winter.  The process of life, we could say.

Even the radiant beauty of fall, cannot make it my favorite season.  Too much has happened in the months of October and November to make it so.  Too much pain.  Too many losses.  Both of my parents died in October.  Kip’s father and my grandson died in November.  So, when these months approach, I just want them to hurry on by.  Can you relate?

Many of you have gone through losses.  Perhaps it was the loss of a loved one through death.  Possibly it was the loss of a child through miscarriage.  Maybe it was a loss of a marriage through divorce.  Possibly it was the loss of a relationship through a break-up.  Maybe it was the loss of a beloved pet.  Perhaps it was the loss of a best friend through a betrayal.  Possibly it was the loss of wanting to have children and not being able to have them.

No matter what the loss was, grief can be all-consuming.  Parents and children alike can have grief.  Parents need to be aware that children often grieve differently than their parents, and that parents need to help their kids through their grief as they are dealing with their own.  Children experience grief differently determined by their age.   T. Suzanne Eller states  that:

  • 0-3 year olds–  Children under age 3 do not understand death, but they do understand the concept of “here” and “not here”.  Children at this age need to know that they will be cared for and safe.
  • 4-7 years oldsChildren this age often become verbal asking where the person went and why.  They may believe death is temporary and that the person will return.  Children this age may become clingy, throw tantrums.  Kids need time to figure out how to express their grief in a positive manner.  Give them an opportunity to express their grief creatively by making a book of photos where they can write words and talk about the person.
  • 8-12 year olds Children this age often personalize the death of a loved one.  It is important to let the child know that the loved one didn’t die because of the child’s lack of attention or that it was the child’s fault.  Parents can help the child celebrate the life of the loved one by planting a flower or a tree in their yard in memory of the person.
  • TeensWhen a teen loses someone he loves, he often assumes the adult role.  Explain that it’s o.k. to not know the right words, to feel lots of different emotions and to mourn his changing world.  Make sure he knows that you are available when he is ready to talk.  The first few days and holidays are difficult for teens.  Give teens a video camera to video tape people’s favorite memory of the loved one.  Start a new tradition during the holidays that honors the loved one.

Going through the stages of grief can be a tricky thing.  People move through these stages in their own time and when they are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready.  No one can prompt them and rush them through one stage to the next.  There is so much about grief that we do not understand.  We many times don’t know what to say or do when someone has had a loss, because we know that we can’t fix it or change the circumstances.  So often we say nothing and act like nothing happened.  Sometimes we talk about our own grief, or we try to talk and say that things will get better.  Well, none of the above comments work.  By saying nothing, the person experiencing loss feels that we don’t care.  When we talk about our grief, that has nothing to do with the other person’s own sorrow. By saying you will soon feel better, the grieving person can’t imagine that for a minute in the melancholy state that they are in.

The best response is:  “I am so sorry for your loss.”  or “I love you.” or  “Let me call you later to see if there is anything that I can do to help you.”  Lots of times at the funeral the grieving person is in the stage of shock.  The person is just trying to make it through the services and she can’t take in much at that time.  Calling or going by later when she is in a different state of mind is helpful.  Then she is able to think more clearly and can more accurately tell you what she may need.  Some people do close down for a period of time after a death.  That is natural.  What is needed is for friends to keep in touch with them.

There are so many different kinds of loss that affect us in our lives. I will mention a few of them:

  • loss of a loved one
  • loss of a marriage
  • loss of a relationship
  • loss of a friendship
  • loss of a job
  • loss of a child when he or she leaves the home- “empty-nest”
  • loss of a child when he or she gets married
  • loss of parents
  • loss of parents to dementia and altzheimers- where you lose them before they have passed away
  • loss of health
  • loss of abilities- can’t do what you once were able to do
  • loss of control and power in your life
  • loss of roles that you have had in your life
  • loss of a dream that you had
  • loss of expectations you had for your life, or in a relationship, or in your family, or in a job

I could continue on and on.  The losses could pile up like suitcases stacked high upon your backs, until you were so weighted down, that you collapsed in a heap, weeping on the ground.  Losses do that to us, don’t they? They literally suck the life and energy out of us, until we feel that there is nothing left; until we are an empty shell of a person, bereft of emotion and feeling as if we are the “walking dead”.

When we are at this point we ask all of the wrong questions, such as the “Why” questions, which never have answers that we will receive on this earth.  We often look to the past for answers, and many times end up piling guilt and shame upon grief, which is not a pretty picture at all.

In the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 God tells us that “There us a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:  a time to be born and a time to die…..a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”  Just like the seasons change and the fall turns into winter and then new life emerges in the spring; so do our lives flow.  Unfortunately for us, we do not get to choose the time that we are born or the time that we die.  That time is in God’s hands.  He is the only one who knows the time and day that we each will depart from this world.

You know in His original plan when God first created Adam and Eve, they were perfect and all of creation was perfect, until it was marred by the original sin in the Garden of Eden.  Since that time all of creation has been affected by sin; not just the sins that each of us commit ourselves, but the sins that have been committed throughout the world since the beginning of time.  They have all affected creation.  Paul says it in Romans 8:22 when he states, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” I believe that he was speaking of creation groaning under the oppression of sin.  My rheumatoid arthritis has been genetically passed down to me, and my husband’s heart issues have been genetically passed down to him. Our genetic codes have been affected by sin.  I believe that cancer, and diabetes and the allergies, autism, ADHD, and I could go on and on, are all the effects of sin on God’s original creation.

So, you may ask, what does that have to do with my own grief and my own losses?    Everything!  Romans 8:28 tells us ” And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purposes.”  Death and grief are a part of life on this earth.  That is a fact.  I can cherish the memories of my loved one and honor that person’s life in my life and in the life of my family.  I can also thank God for the loved one’s life and for how that person made a difference in my life and the lives of others.   I can also know without a shadow of a doubt that God will bring something good out of the tragedy of death, grief, and loss, for that is His promise in Romans 8:28.

Then we have to ask the right questions.  Questions such as:

“Who is with me when I am experiencing grief and loss in my life?”  GOD  

Even Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died.  He is weeping along with us in our grief.  I can imagine that the angels are shedding tears, as well. 

“Where can I go to get help when I am grieving?”  To my church, to family and friends who care for me 

“What can I do help me when I am struggling?”  Read my Bible, pray, listen to music, call a friend, 

We can have the assurance that is told us in Romans 8:35-39  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I have some additional resources that I hope that you will find helpful:

I Will Carry You

When God Doesn’t Fix It

How to Help Your Child Grieve

I know that this was a difficult topic this week, yet I felt led by the Lord to address the issues of grief and loss.  My prayers are with any of you who are grieving.

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith


“Shiver Me Timbers!” It’s Report Card Time!

Goodness gracious sakes alive!! It is the end of the grading period and that means: REPORT CARDS are coming home soon!!  Students in kindergarten, first, and second grade have been reading one-on-one with their teachers, working on reading assessments, and sight word, letter, and phonetic sound recognition.  Upper elementary kids have been taking reading tests.  All elementary children have been evaluated on how well they are able to write their own personal narratives.  In math many fundamental number concepts have been reviewed and tested, along with addition and subtraction facts and word problems.

Reading, writing, arithmetic– as it was stated long ago are the basic subjects being taught, but the elementary classroom teacher also teaches social studies, science, and health to her students.  During the week each student is instructed in media, music, art, p.e., and technology as subjects that we call Specials.  Therefore, the report card will include grades for all of these subjects that are given instruction.

The Learning Behavior section on the Report Card is the most telling part, and thus the most important part.  If a child receives a lot of 3’s or Need’s Improvement in this area, it explains why he or she is having difficulty in the academic areas.  For instance, if your child gets 3’s in Listening attentively and Responding appropriately to directionsthis may very well explain the reason why he is having trouble in his core subjects.  The teacher may note that he plays around during lessons; that he can’t stay in his seat, that he can’t stay on task, that he talks when he is supposed to be working.  If a teacher states this on a report card, then it is a problem.  Your child is missing instruction during the times he or she is not listening.  The teacher marks this grade to help you see where your child is currently developing and to show you where your child needs to make progress.

Let me shoot straight with you.  As a teacher for 27years, it has always been a very difficult job for me to do my first quarter report cards, very difficult indeed, particularly for first graders.  Being a positive person, I have wanted to write that all of them are doing fantastic and passing with flying colors. Many of the students are.  Yet, all of them are not.  Some of them are struggling in different areas.  Some of them are immature and seem to need more time to grow and develop.  Some of them seem to want to get by with doing the least possible work.  Some of them often want to give up before they have even tried, when they are capable of doing the work.  Some of them have learning problems that make it challenging for them to learn.  Some of them have ADHD, which makes it difficult for them to focus on a lesson and pay attention and follow directions.  Some of them have language issues, that make it hard for them to comprehend and understand.   Some of them are working as diligently as they can and have the perfect learning behaviors, yet they still struggle with learning.

The goal of the report card is to show the parent exactly where the student is functioning.  The parents, student, and the teacher form a partnership in aiding the student if any assistance is needed to help the student  in any area, whether that is in behavior, reading, writing, or math.  Sometimes the teacher meets with the parents and formulates a behavior plan to see if that will help curb the learning behaviors that need to be tweaked.  Other times the teacher may give the parent vocabulary cards to promote a child’s use of sight words or math strategies to use for a math concept that was difficult to grasp.  If a student is really struggling a teacher may suggest a parent look into tutoring.  Sometimes a student’s problem may not be academic, but social.  Teachers may suggest for a student to get involved with sports groups, cub scouts, brownies, or other social groups to assist a child who needs support in learning to interact with others.  Often guidance groups are suggested by teachers.  These groups are fantastic! Lunch-bunch groups for kids who need organizational aid, assistance in listening and following directions, a Friends group for how to make friends, and a changing families group for those kids whose families have gone through a death or divorce.

As parents, be pro-active; you are your child’s best advocate.  If you think that your child is falling behind, ask the teacher what you can do to help him or her catch up.  Ask what reading benchmark your child is on and what the normal benchmark is to be on at that particular time.  Go to the library and check out books that are on that particular benchmark and do extra reading with him.  Ask your teacher for a sight word list to review with your child,  or if there is anything else to specifically work on.  Maybe it is writing in complete sentences.  Get a journal and have your child write responses in the journal to the stories that he has read and draw pictures of that response.  If the class is working on personal narratives, write a personal narrative at home.  You could write one about Going Trick or Treating or My Halloween.  Have your child write a letter to his grandmother.   He could even do it on the computer!

Report cards are to be private.  They are reports written and shared between student, teacher and parents.  That’s it!  I made it a point to tell my students each year that report cards were not to be opened on the bus or at After-School Care and read by their buddies.  Report cards are private, and intended to be read only by students and their parents.  My oldest son found out how true that statement was when he was in kindergarten.  He was so excited about getting his first report card.  He got on the bus to come home and some 5th graders talked him into opening his report card up and letting them read it.  After reading it, they began taunting him and whispering to others that he had made bad grades.  My son burst into the front door crying his little eyes out that he had a horrible report card, when in fact he had a really good report card. The 5th graders had just decided to pick on and bully a little kindergartener that day. Shame on them!!  I have told everyone of my classes that story, trying to make the point that no one has any business knowing what is on their report card, but mom and dad.

I have also told everyone of my students that very few of my students will ever have a perfect report card, because everyone has something that they need to work on.  No one is perfect, and no one is supposed to be perfect.  We all have our areas where we are strong, where we do well. Maybe it is reading. Maybe it is math.  For some kids it is p.e.  For others it is art or music.  Everyone has an area where they have a strength.  Likewise, every child has an area where she or he has to put in extra effort to succeed.  It may be difficult, but try, and try again, and progress will be made.  It is o.k. to make mistakes, for that is how we learn to improve.  We look at the positive steps that we have made and see how those steps have helped us to become a stronger and better student.

You have heard me say before that school was difficult for me when I was in elementary school.  Nothing came easily to me.  I mean literally nothing.  I had to work many long hours, burning the midnight oilwith the help of my parents and teachers to get me through those years.  I cried many tears and remember saying “I just don’t get it”, “You don’t understand.” I really believed that I couldn’t do it.  Yet, I really could.  Things for whatever reason just did not click.  It is so easy for kids to get in a trap where they start believing that they can’t do it. So, they won’t even open their minds to the possibility that they can.  When I began teaching, I forbade the use of the word can’t in my room, because can’t never could.  Having certain teachers later on in my life, showed me the truth- that I could do it!   

Yet, it was the presence of Christ in my life, that actually made all the difference.  I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior at the age of 9.  Even though I continued to have struggles as we made several moves at crucial ages, I had Him encouraging me all along the way.  What a difference He has made in my life!!  Two of my favorite verses are:

“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” Philip. 4:13

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Cor. 12:9

With Jesus I could face the next day.  I could face the subjects that were difficult for me.  Where I was weak, He could make me strong.

Here are some resources that you may find helpful.

Helping Parents Help Their Kids

Why Can’t My Child Stop Reading 20 min. a Day?

Report Card Thoughts

May God keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith