Notes from the start of school

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Mark Twain
– (September) First day of school in Miami

This morning, as complex and potentially fraught as yesterday’s post, I want to talk about the beginning of this 2020-2021 school year.

There are no easy answers, but there are lots of loaded opinions! Consequently there is room and to spare for a little more understanding and grace. Reopening decisions are difficult, and we must value the benefit of listening and compromise.

Our grandchildren are in Miami. They moved there in February and had been in school less than two weeks when in-person learning was suspended.

Now, a week and a half into second and third grade they are hitting their stride, finding a sense of rhythm and routine for the new academic year. I video-chatted with both of them yesterday and I think they are going to be fine.

David and Beks each have their own dedicated laptop. They are both good readers already, and reading is learning gold. Their parents (Naomi and Craig) value education and provide good structure, plus Naomi is staying home with the children for now. Also, the school requires uniforms even when the kids are taking classes at home (this is great because otherwise David tends to be a “shirt optional” kind of a guy!).

So I talked with the children about it via FaceTime. Beks said she loves school at home because she can be with the pets and her mom – which is amusing because when her mother was that age she answered a question about future careers by saying, “I’m going to stay home and play with the pets.”

Beks points out that is not her plan: “I’m going to be a rock star,” she said. If you ask me it’s a lock.

David’s career goals are still resolutely within the Disney framework, but becoming more refined over time. A couple of years back he was going to drive the monorail. Now he plans to go to college first, become a Disney Imagineer, design new monorails, and develop ideas for an entire theme park. I have no doubt that he will.

Learning is not optional!

Here’s my point. The future may be uncertain regarding what school looks like, but learning is not optional. Being fully engaged, right now, is the most important thing and there can be no compromise. Education is always best when parents are team leaders in terms of learning – so the responsibility remains right there in the home.

The good folks down at the schoolhouse are an invaluable resource and I am grateful for professional educators. But the ultimate responsibility lies squarely in the home.

To that end, we must shape public policy to offer support in every possible way. Because if too many children fall through the gaps and cracks now, then it will cost us so much more to right the deficit later.

– Derek Maul lives and writes in North Carolina

That’s the news today from Wake Forest; where all of the grandmothers are strong, all the grandfathers are good looking, and all the grandchildren are above average (with apologies to Garrison Keillor).

By the way – I miss them so very much…

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Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

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