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Parent Connection 101

By Dr. Joni Samples

Having four children including a set of twins means my parental connection with each of them is no option. When they were little my parent connection was a necessity from rolling out of bed to four different requests for breakfast to doing laundry after everyone else was asleep. Now that they're older parent connection means driving grandchildren to the bus stop or picking a child up at the library before soccer practice. There's nothing like having children to change your planning, scheduling, and life in general!

Connecting with my children isn't an option. Thinking it is a choice is like believing fish can slip out of the water and breathe air. Connection, whatever their age, is knowing when and what to teach and support and when to let them do the practical application of their
own learning.

That's what this blog is addressing -connection with your children, from soup to dessert. We'll explore connecting you and your children in two of my favorite topics: thinking and learning. As an educator, I used to believe it was all about learning. If a child learned the ABCs and algebra, passed all the tests, and graduated from school, their life would be good. What I've realized is that how a child develops in their thinking, how positively he or she views their life and their world, has a huge impact on whether life is good. Connection, then, is about engaging in the development of a child's thinking as well as learning.

What you can expect from this blog is a story or scene to relate to, options for thinking including strategies to develop creative thinking, and options for learning including strategies for learning new skills. See what you think:

fishbowl2Story: Stevie sat in front of the tank at the aquarium watching the fish glide from one spot to
another.  The blue one seemed to dance with the stripped one. The one with the large fins stayed on the other side of the tank swimming in small circles. Stevie picked out the size and shape of the fish he could be. The glass didn't even ripple as, in his mind; he slipped into the tank to join the other fish.

The water was warm, warmer than he'd expected. A fish was coming towards him. Her name is Lulu. He knows because she told him. She didn't talk out loud, but he heard it in his head. Lulu. Nice name. "Oh, look Lulu, I can roll over and blow bubbles. Wow, I can do anything..."


A child's thinking is endless. He can be a fish in a tank, a dinosaur of long ago, or a cowboy roping a calf all in the course of ten minutes. There are no boundaries to where his mind can take him. Imagination is one of the key factors in creativity. No great invention has come without the original thought coming from someone's imagination. Fostering imagination is one of the most important connection activities a parent can provide a child. We'll explore not only imagination but the positive thinking that creates self-worth and value.

Stevie's visit to the aquarium happens because a parent or teacher brought him there. A
parent's connection in a child's thinking is helping him direct his thoughts to those of creativity and positive possibilities.

Strategies for developing thinking:  Take your child to an aquarium or purchase a fish bowl and a couple of fish. Ask questions that lead to exploration and creativity. What color would you be if you were a fish? How would it feel to swim with flippers? How would you sleep?


Learning comes from exploring the answers to questions. We often expect learning to come from a textbook, but try remembering your most exciting events in school. Was it the test you took or the sixth grade field trip? Bet it was the field trip. As parents we are a major player in field trips and hands on experiences that lead to learning.  A trip to the aquarium provides all kinds of opportunity for learning. Its science, math, and reading all rolled into one adventure.

Learning strategies for science: Questions can be asked. What kind of fish are these? Why are they different colors? How long do they live? What do they eat? When do they sleep? What else is in the tank? What question would you ask?

Learning strategies for math: More questions are available here. How much water is in the tank? How many fish can live in one tank? How big are the tanks? How big are the fish? Will they get bigger? What happens if they're too big?

Learning strategies for reading: How else can you research all your questions except by reading? Yes, I'd ask the aquarium director or pet store owner, but reading everything available on fish helps satisfy curiosity and improves reading skills. From One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss to Hook, Line and Seeker by Jim Arnosky, there are books available at all ages and reading levels.

So here we go: a story that helps define the topic and then activities for thinking and for learning, ideas to foster imagination and gain knowledge.  Join me as we explore endless
possibilities for parent connections.

Parents who want more activities and strategies may wish to review Dr. Joni's Parent Playbook Series. Educators may want to preview Dr. Joni's book The Parent Connection. Both are available at Family Friendly Schools.

Posted on February 16, 2012 by Dr. Joni Samples

Dr. Joni is Chief Academic Officer for Family Friendly Schools, keynote speaker on Family Engagement, and author of several books on the same topic. Contact her at Family Friendly Schools.  

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Tags: *Parent Engagement at Home , Critical Thinking, Learning environment, Parents as teachers


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