Last week I watched as the good people from Epic Change installed a tech lab in an elementary school in Arusha, Tanzania. My kids, Madeleine (11) and Carter (8) got a first hand look at how social media can be more than a distraction for your homework or a way to kill time with your friends. These children discovered the pure power of the web: the ability to connect human beings all over the globe for the purpose of conversation, collaboration and yes, friendship--for the very first time. The simplicity of Twitter--something both my digital media savvy kids understand without explanation--was the tool of choice and within days kids who previously had no concept of the internet or email were tweeting with social entrepreneurs, moms, teachers and good-hearted souls from all over the world.
While it's not the easiest thing in the world to set up a tech lab halfway around the world (or take your kids to Africa, for that matter), I'm incredibly thankful for my children to get a new take on the web and social media. For all the worrying we do about our kids wasting away online, now I can offer them this constructive alternative--building old fashioned pen pal type relationships with their peers in the global south. And this is just the beginning. What happens when we decide as a global community that access and connectivity is a right and privilege worthy of all the children of the world?
Having this pipeline open changes things not just for kids but for the teachers and educators who guide them. "How can we get them interested in reading?" Mama Lucy, the founder of Shepherds Junior asked. There are a hundred answers, of course, but now she has one of the most powerful solutions at her fingertips. Light them on fire with the fluency that comes with chat. Show them how to explore the myriad of child-appropriate sites dedicated to learning how to build proficiency in language and literacy in a way that wasn't available to them before. Let them navigate a brand new world built on the craving for connection and power of the word.
Mama Lucy with good friend and founder of Epic Change, Stacey Monk
You (and your kids) can tweet with the children of Shepherd's Junior School by following along on Twitter. They're waiting for you.
It was an epic battle battle of Monopoly. Jack had been begging us to play for weeks but honestly I was dreading it. Jack had been losing at lots of games lately and it was starting to really bother him. I think he thought this might be his chance to show the world (i.e. his brother) and himself what he can really do. He's a good little negotiator and is already sporting some business sense in these early years.
Jack had built a nice little empire of properties while Josiah turned down most opportunities to purchase real estate. Josiah was being cautious, waiting for the right moment but I could tell even he was starting to get nervous. Then he landed right on the jack pot, Park Place. He had acquired Boardwalk a few turns ago in a deal with Jorge. He immediately sunk every last penny into houses and hotels. Everything was stacked, the stakes were high, he just had to wait.
"Oh, I am so sorry Mom that you have to pay me but the rent is $350, I'm so sorry." Jack said with the most sincere heart. I smiled and paid my dues while quietly hoping Jack would win. The next turn Jack rolled the dice, counted nervously and instantly buried his face into his hands, Boardwalk. He landed on Boardwalk. He knew it was over, the heartbreak was just too much. We did the math, trying to keep him alive in the game while he sobbed.
"I lost everything!" he cried. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure what to say. I just rubbed his back, agreed and listened. I wondered how I could have navigated this parenting moment better. The competition was too much but he wanted to try so badly. I kept thinking how hard it is sometimes to be little and have someone bigger, faster, stronger ahead of you. Being the middle child myself, I know this part of learning, growing, being shapes who you are.
Tell me what do you do in moments with your children when losing feels so big?
How do you handle games, competition, and the like? Do share in the comments.
I hate to be the person to tell you that Christmas is only 7 1/2 weeks away, but Christmas is only 7 1/2 weeks away. Typically I like to ignore Christmas until after Thanksgiving. However, this year the finances are much tighter than they have been in a few years so by planning ahead, I can be sure to give heartfelt gifts to the ones I love without emptying my bank account. Here are just a few tried and true tips from our house.
Exchange names for gift giving. If you have presents to buy for 12 nieces and nephews, you may easily find yourself spending more than you should or buying "filler" presents to check the box. Our solution in our family is that every cousin's name goes in a hat and Madeleine picks the names out one-by-one to see who will be giving a present to whom on Christmas. With only three gifts for my family to buy now, we can better focus on finding the perfect present for each name picked and no one is worrying about their children sending their sister's family into the poor house because of gift giving.
Focus on thoughtful gifts. For years we have made photo calendars for each grandparent. Last year I was so overwhelmed with life that I didn't get to it and there was great disappointment on Christmas day. Typically photo calendars run around $20, but most photo processing websites will have specials or discounts if you purchase early or if you purchase more than one. I usually upload around 20 pictures and switch the photos around for each grandparent. That way everyone is looking at a different picture each month. Adding your own captions helps personalize the calendar. "It's your birthday this month, Nana!! Happy Birthday!!" under a picture of Junior blowing out candles on his birthday cake is sure to bring a smile to Nana's face.
Let your kids make some executive decisions. Letting your children take ownership of a gift allows them to truly experience the joy of giving themselves. For Carter's birthday this year, Ethan was determined to get him an ice cream cake. I will never forget Ethan's face when he carried that candle lit cake to Carter. Apparently Ethan has not forgotten it either because he still brings up that ice cream cake. It was his idea and he was committed to it. Because of that, Ethan had as much joy giving that cake as Carter did receiving it.
It is possible for less to be more. Teaching your children that a gift from the heart is more important than what something costs is an invaluable lesson that they will carry with them forever. You only spent $10 on that photo coffee mug, but the fact that your kids picked out that special photo because they thought Dad would like it best can mean more to Dad than a gift which costs ten times more.
These are just a few of the things we do. What things have you done to keep your heart in giving without having to dig as deep into your pockets?