Category: Blog

Connecting Amid Social Distancing

1 John 3:18

Let us not love with words or with speech but with actions and in truth.

It is so easy to say “I love you” but in today’s social distancing environment, how do we show that love? The heart of Christianity is fellowship, a sense of mutual connection. But just when our neighbors, friends and family need our help or a kind action, the new mandate of social distancing is challenging how we show that love and offer support.

To help navigate this new landscape, here are some easy ways your children and family can support your community and foster relationships, yet stay safe and healthy. 

  1. Beautify your neighborhood by allowing your children to decorate your sidewalks with chalk art. This is a sure way to spread words of encouragement and bring smiles to neighbors out walking, running or riding bikes.
  2. Spring Cleaning – With so much “home time” many of us are cleaning closets and pantries. Donate your extra clothing to a shelter or homeless ministry. Share your BOGO items with a local food bank.
  3. Set a time (or two) each day to call or FaceTime friends and family. Do you have distant cousins or friends who you think of yet never have the time to connect with? Do you have elderly neighbors who may feel isolated and lonely? The friendly voice of a child will be sure to brighten their day. 
  4. All hospitals, nursing care facilities, assisted living facilities are in “lock out” meaning they are not allowing visitors. This can be scary for the families but even more so for the patients and elderly. Spend time each day to write/draw encouraging cards to the residents and mail the cards to a near-by facility or hospital. 
  5. Send a pizza: Teachers, first-responders, even a neighbor or friend, could really use a simple gesture like a hot pizza delivery to brighten their day. 
  6. Is there a time of day you have noticed more neighborhood traffic? Walkers, runners or dog walking? Put on a porch concert or “carolling” favorite children’s hymns from the sidewalks of homes while keeping a safe distance. Music is medicine for the soul!
  7. Small group devotions: Gather your child’s friends (and your adult friends) for a daily devotion via FaceTime or other social networking platform. A quick 5 or 10 minute check in with words of encouragement can help smooth the bumps we are all experiencing from being in close quarters. Check out The Christ School’s daily morning devotion with a focus for children.
  8. Schedule time each day to reflect on your blessings. Teach your children to be thankful, even in challenging times. Write letters/cards of thanks to loved ones, friends, teachers, pastors, your mail delivery team, first responders. A note of appreciation can go a long way in support of those who are working hard on the frontlines.
  9. Focus on kindness – refrain from complaining. This is our moment to be the voice of faith, hope, and love – especially on social media. Post a verse, a devotion or funny mime. 
  10.  Enjoy your home and stay put!  Through these, and other activities, we will be reminded how immensely blessed we are. Pray with your family and offer prayers of thanksgiving for janitors, doctors, nurses, chaplains, first responders, drivers, and laborers all of whom are working outside of their homes so we can stay in ours.

Our Lord never leaves us. He is the same today, tomorrow and forever. May we be known by our love in these unique times.

Intensive Reading/The Bridge

Individualizing instruction for all learners is part of the core mission of The Christ School. One way we deliver our mission is by creating specialized learning environments and offering support for students with dyslexia and related language-based learning differences. The instructional approach we have initiated through our small groups within the Student Support Center’s intensive reading program has been a blessing to many new and long-time TCS families. 

There are many myths and misconceptions regarding dyslexia. For instance, despite what you may have heard, dyslexia is not a vision problem or just about reversing those “pesky b’s and d’s.” It is also a myth that dyslexia is rare or uncommon. In fact, the International Dyslexia Foundation states between 15-20% of the population have a language-based learning disability with dyslexia being the most common. Dyslexia and intelligence are also NOT connected. Many individuals who have dyslexia are very bright and creative and have accomplished amazing things. 

Dyslexia is defined as a specific learning difference that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. (International Dyslexia Association, 2002). This definition is only part of how The Christ School describes dyslexia. We see the God-given gifts and talents in these children and seek to develop these traits. There are many success stories to draw from when thinking of adults with dyslexia. Charles Schwab, Richard Branson, and Tim Tebow are three of many that attribute their dyslexia to their creative problem solving and successful careers. 

We are honored to serve TCS families who desire our explicit, multisensory, prescriptive and diagnostic (Orton-Gillingham) approach to learning. In the fall of 2020, we will offer a new model of delivery to serve students with dyslexia called, The Bridge.  The Bridge will offer specialized second, third, and fourth grade classes designed to meet the needs of the dyslexic learner. This model will allow TCS to better serve our families and community. 

To learn more about The Bridge, click here.

“In our family’s journey to discover our daughter has dyslexia, we never really found anyone who we felt truly understood her – until we found TCS. The  Christ School’s approach has obviously made an impact on her ability to academically thrive and succeed, but TCS has also made a point to feed the emotional self-worth component that had previously been destroyed with feelings of inadequacy and failure in prior school settings. Our daughter is now beginning, for the first time ever, to see her own potential! And, she’s actually excited about the learning!  It is such a blessing to have real, true experts guide us as we desperately seek answers on how to help our daughter. In every step, from parent-teacher meetings to the small group instruction, there is immense love and concern in the whole process. I can’t say enough how grateful I am that we are one of the families TCS supports!” – Donna Hansen

Social and Emotional IQ – Social Bridges at The Christ School

Matching, Calming Tools, Red/Green Light Cues, Strong Assertive Voice…..What are these terms and what do they have to do with TCS?

At The Christ School, we are intentional about teaching Social/Emotional IQ. Social IQ is the ability to successfully build relationships and navigate social environments. This ability develops from experiences with people and learning from success and failures in social settings. Emotional IQ is the ability to monitor and regulate one’s own emotions and other people’s emotions. Emotional IQ also involves the ability to differentiate between different emotions, be able to identify the feelings correctly, and to use this information to regulate behavior. At TCS, we place a large emphasis on helping students learn academic content, and at the same time, we know the ability to regulate their emotions and the quality of their relationships have an incredible impact on their lives. Knowing this, we have adopted a research-based program called Social Bridges to purposefully give students the experiences needed to build these skills. 

Mrs. Gibbs serves as the lower school Social Bridges Coach. Terra Townsend and Mark Davis serve as the middle school Social Bridge Coaches and incorporate this training into their Bible classes.  There are a lot of concepts taught throughout this program. Here are a few of the concepts your child has been learning. 

  • Matching: Matching social expectations/norms – knowing and following social rules (e.g. matching by talking about the same topic or engaging in the activity in a similar/expected manner) Activity: Flea, Fly, Mosquito! The coach leads and the students echo and match words, pace, pitch, and gestures. Then, a student takes the leadership role and chooses the pace and even changes the gestures. The purpose of this activity is to help students learn to read the social cues of other people during a conversation and also to help them understand the signals they are sending. 
  • Emotional Regulation: Identifying and expressing feelings appropriately and using calming tools to prevent and regulate stress (e.g. Push, Pull, Dangle or Positive Self Talk). The lower school has learned to use the terms “Tremor” and “Earthquake” to monitor when they are becoming frustrated and take corrective actions before they reach an “Earthquake” and respond inappropriately. Activity: Feelings Detective. Students identify a feeling/emotion. Then they all take turns expressing what makes them feel that way. “I feel HOPEFUL when _____.”  The purpose of these activities is to learn what causes their emotions and the emotions of others to change and practice techniques to better control these emotions. 
  • Being Assertive: Expressing wants and needs respectfully and understanding the  Passive-Assertive-Aggressive Continuum. Passive means not sharing your thoughts or opinions or not fully sharing what you truly believe. Assertive means expressing thoughts and feelings in an appropriate way that is clear, direct, and respectful. Aggressive means expressing thoughts or opinions in an inappropriate way that is physically or emotionally harmful to others. Activity: Bug and a Wish. Students learn to recognize when they feel annoyed, irritated, upset, or frustrated by something someone is doing and practicing saying (using eye contact, a strong voice/words), “It bugs me when you ____, I wish you would _____.”  When students practice expressing what bothers them and what they desire to want to occur, it helps the students who are naturally passive to feel more confident expressing themselves and it creates opportunities for students who tend to be aggressive to learn how to properly express their thoughts and feelings. 
  • Communication: Reading and responding to social cues that give off green light signals and red light signals (nonverbal facial expression, body language, tone of voice that indicate if the person/group is engaging or not) and conversation skills – starting, joining in and maintaining conversation. Activity: Give chances to role play and WATCH (body language) and LISTEN (tone/volume) for green light cues (person wants to engage/play/talk) or red light cues (person is not ready to engage/play/talk). The students practice the life skill of “moving on” when you get a red light signal. It is always difficult to receive a “red light” cue when you try to engage another person, but when students are able to practice and learn a framework for these times they gain the ability to move on with grace and confidence.  

These are a few of the activities TCS uses to help our students learn how to treat others with respect and to properly regulate their emotions. This proactive approach to developing Social and Emotional IQ helps establish the culture of TCS and prepares our students to thrive in a variety of environments. 

 

The Important Life Skill of Financial Literacy

The importance of financial literacy in today’s world is critical for success. Financial literacy is an academic discipline that goes beyond the classroom. As part of our commitment to whole development and real-life preparation of students, The Christ School has made a commitment to teaching wise money management by providing a personal finance class for all 6th grade students. The class focuses on the basics of managing money, such as saving for future purchases, creating a budget, planning for the future and charitable giving. Utilizing fundamental biblical principles regarding stewardship, The Christ School utilizes the Foundations in Personal Finance Curriculum, which is the middle school edition of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. As part of that instruction, students learn how debt can add stress and problems to everyday life, the concepts of entrepreneurship, the basics of investing, the power of compound interest, and are introduced to global economics and consumerism. 

A Scottish Proverb we share with our students at the beginning of the class is “a fool may earn money, but it takes a wise man to keep it.”  To help the meaning of this proverb sink in, the students are tasked with creating and implementing an envelope system. This system helps the students better understand where their money is going and holds them accountable. By creating “give”, “save”, and “spend” envelopes, they are challenged to devise their own budget and manage their money accordingly. A further challenge is also set in place to see how much they can save throughout the course or save for a specific item that they would like to purchase. The students are amazed at how disciplined and conscious decision making over time can yield large savings. A surprising turn of events often comes at the end of the course when students who were saving for something specific decide to continue saving rather than purchasing that desired item. They instead set their sights on bigger aspirations and enjoy seeing their “save” envelope grow. Many have even taken it one step further and have started their own savings accounts to see the interest rates add to their savings.

Whether our students are discerning between needs and wants, learning the impact wise financial choices make over time, or understanding how money moves around the world, our Personal Finance class equips them to handle the world ahead by providing a firm foundation for their future financial decisions.

“I never really thought about having a plan for my money until I took the Personal Finance class. Now I am thinking about my plan for the future and how I’m going to earn money for college and during college. This class was fun! I learned how to think about money and be more responsible with it.” Mia, grade 6 

 

5 Dangers of Social Media to Discuss with Your Child

The Christ School recently hosted an educational event for our parents that began with a screening of the movie, Connect – Real Help for Parenting Kids in a Social Media World, followed by an informative discussion and Q&A with Jim West, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, who works primarily with children, adolescents and young adults. A lot of great information was shared at this informative event. Here are some tips to assist parents in helping their child(ren) navigate social media.

5 Dangers of Social Media to Discuss with Your Child
By Jim West  MA, LMHC, NCC President, Author, Counselor, Coach, Mentor
jim@totallifecounseling.com

STRANGER DANGER

  • Children find it hard to determine strangers in person, and it’s more difficult to tell online. Emphasize to your children not to associate with strangers on apps they use and discuss that people on social media aren’t truly always who they say they are.
  • Parents need to be up to date with the apps their children are using and with what each app does.
  • Monitor your children’s usage of the internet to make sure they’re associating with true real-life friends.

OVER REVEALING INFORMATION

  • How much children reveal about themselves online is a topic to be addressed. Make sure your child isn’t sharing things such: location, address, email, etc. on apps in which individuals are able to track their movements.
  • Examine the dangers of disclosing too much information on the internet, discussing that it gives materials to strangers with dangerous intentions.
  • Allow your child to be a part of the social media platforms at the acceptable age the apps require.

BACKGROUND OF POSTING PHOTOS

  • Children need to know what they post may have risks. Photos aren’t an exception. It is crucial children aren’t sending photos except if they’re 100% sure it’s the friend they’re communicating with.
  • Photos contain EXIF data- details about the camera where you took the photo, so the receiver can see where the photo was taken. If you have a younger child discuss the concept that photos have location information, which a stranger could use to find them.
  • If the parents have younger children it’s preferred to regulate the use of photos on social media or set parental controls on the social media platforms they’re using.

POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Children must fully grasp that what is posted on social media could have long-term effects and what they say or post may be a joke, but in the future can be seen by colleges and employers.

CYBERBULLYING

  • Make a list of rules for using social media and discuss with your children and put them next to the computer. Include a list of questions such as: “Would this hurt their feelings? How would I feel if I received this message? Is this threatening in any way?”
  • Talk to your children about bullying and apply this concept of not following friends who gossip or tease others.

A Note for Students – Starting Fresh in the New Year

By Amanda Gordon, Curriculum Specialist

After a couple of weeks off during the holidays, it is always good to welcome the new year by starting off on the right foot. Below are some simple tips to help you get back into the swing of things at home and school.

Take Time to Reflect:  Think back to how your first semester went and what things you would like to do better in the second semester. Would you like to be more organized or feel more prepared for upcoming tests? Would you like to take more time for yourself or be more involved in activities? By reflecting on the past semester, you can make a plan for yourself and set goals on how to improve upon your practices in the new semester.

Make a Schedule: Getting back into a routine after the holidays can be difficult, especially after being “out of practice” for a few weeks over the break. A good way to get back into that routine is to create a schedule for yourself that includes all after school activities, homework assignments, projects, and upcoming tests. By posting the schedule somewhere clearly in your home, you can easily reference it every morning prior to heading out the door. That way, in the evening, you already know what you need to accomplish before bedtime.

Organize School Supplies:  Now is the time to take stock on what school supplies you still have and which ones need to be replaced. Go into the second semester strong with a fresh supply of pencils, paper, glue sticks, etc. to ensure you are prepared with the correct materials for all of your classes. This will help you feel well organized and not leave you scrambling for that lone pencil with no eraser you were using prior to break.

Structure your Study Time:  “The most successful students are those who take charge of their own learning and follow a simple but disciplined strategy (Make It Stick, Brown et al. 201).”  There are many ways to structure your study time to fit what works best for you, but it is important to have at least one strategy in place to help keep you accountable for the material you need to learn. Give yourself time to quiz yourself over the content covered in class and reward yourself once you’ve completed a certain amount of study time. This will help keep your mind fresh and motivate you to stay on task to finish your studies in a timely manner.

Great Christmas Gift Ideas from The Christ School’s Compass Teacher

Looking for the perfect gift that is not only fun, but will challenge your child? We’re here to help!  Mrs. Gibbs, our Compass (critical thinking) teacher, has put together a list of great gift ideas to help make learning fun and exciting!

Shaky Manor – The Tilted Treasure Hunt (this is a 4 player game where each person holds a “Manor” so you could buy 2 if you have a big family). In this game, race to position your Meeple Player and 2 Treasure Chests into the room indicated on the Challenge Card by shaking and tilting your box.  From Blue Orange Games.

Double Ditto – The Game of Quick Thinking and Clever answers. You can play for a few minutes or for hours! (3 players to 10+ players!) It says ages 10 and up but you can probably play with some children who are a little younger. You can find this at InspirationPlay.com

Djubi Sling Ball Junior – Hook it, Launch It, Catch It!  This is an outdoor game and comes with two launchers and two sling balls. Ages 5 and up. From Blue Orange Games (There are also other similar versions for different ages).  2 players.

Clouds – Clouds is a matching game that’s perfect to entertain the wildest of imaginations and comes in a cute and easy to “take along” container.  From Blue Orange Games. Ages 4 and up. 1+ players.

Wits and Wagers, Family Edition – Take a guess and score points by choosing whose guess is closest. How many sesame seeds are on a Whopper bun?  With easy rules and exciting game play, Wits & Wagers Family will get the whole family/party cheering and laughing together.  Ages 6 and Up, 3+ players, and can be played as individuals or as teams.

Transitioning From Middle School to High School

by TJ Ross, TCS Director of Middle School

The transition from The Christ School (TCS) to high school can seem far away as a 5th, 6th, or even 7th grade parent.  Whether your little entrepreneur is selling their goods at the 5th grade store or your child is learning high-level math in middle school, preparing them for the next chapter in their educational journey starts sooner than you think.  

How is TCS preparing your child for high school?
The Christ School’s portrait of a graduate states that our students are prepared to perform with distinction at the next academic level, committed to being others-oriented, and secure in his or her identity as a child of God.  The track record for TCS’s ability to positively shape the minds of children is evident.  For example, of the 17 valedictorians at Boone High School in the class of 2018, seven were graduates of The Christ School.  Additionally, since TCS began offering Florida’s end of course exam for Algebra 1, our students have consistently exceeded the standards set out by the Florida Department of Education.  TCS partners with families by walking them through the high school transition process during their child’s 8th grade year.  This process includes guiding students in creating a résumé, relaying information related to each family’s choice high school, and helping with high school course selections.

How does TCS shape the hearts of children?
During your child’s middle school years at TCS, they are exposed to an array of identity forming experiences. Our service trips, in state and out of the country, and Biblical worldview curriculum help students identify who they are as image bearers. Combine these identity forming experiences with sports offerings led by Christian coaches, opportunities to express oneself artistically in musical theater, choir, and art, a robust curriculum that builds year-over-year, and passionate Christ-loving teachers, and you have a beautiful recipe for success in high school and life.

How can you prepare your child for high school?
As your child journeys through middle school, a shift of responsibilities should occur.  The process of relinquishing control while monitoring your child’s progress is key when fostering their independence. Some children embrace responsibilities and take ownership, others may need more encouragement and support. However, slip ups happen for all children. Anticipating these mistakes, letting them happen when appropriate, which is often the hardest part, and helping your child glean insight from them is crucial to their development. Before you know it, the habits, behaviors, and principles you’ve modeled and outlined during the middle school years will be reflected in your child.

When the time comes to choose a high school that fits your child and family best, whether public or private, The Christ School is here to support and assist you along the way.  We have built close relationships with many of the local schools throughout the Greater Orlando area and are glad to be a resource for you and your family.

Coaching vs. Fixing

by Carol Miller, LCSW, Director, Social Bridges

Parents often ask what is the most beneficial way to teach your child the social skills they need to get along in life.  In one word – Coaching.

A sports coach:

  • teaches the rules of the game, gives players specific feedback on what they are doing to be successful (e.g. “Good shot”, “Good block”)
  • shows (models) what to do to be a better player. (“This is how you can hold the bat”, “This is how you can pass”)
  • Teaches the skills that are needed so that the player can use their skills to play their best game (versus playing the game for them)

How do players get better? By practicing with the support of their coach.

Similarly, parents can serve as social coaches for their child by:

Stating the social rules or expectations for social situations (playdates, birthday parties, family gatherings, sportsmanship or game play or team sports, participation in activities, school field trips)

Teaching –  your child social skills and tools according to your family values and beliefs

Modeling – Being the example by showing your child how to interact

Noticing – Providing feedback of how others are perceiving them

Coaching – Reminding your child of what they know (social tools) to effectively problem solve to make good choices for themselves. Just like it is helpful for a sports coach to keep his or her cool to be effective, it is important for a parent to remain or regain calm to coach in a neutral manner.

Supporting your child, while allowing your child to practice regulating their emotions, problem solving and following their plan leads to greater social success.

Conversely, in an effort to help their child “get it right” some parents choose to “fix” social missteps for their child. Fixing means telling the child what they “should do”. This may include “hovering” to make sure it is done “correctly” (helicopter parent) or “paving the way” (snow plow parent), doing for the child so that the child does not experience anxiety, frustration, disappointment etc. These prevent a child from learning how to regulate their emotions, handle disappointment/failure and build resiliency.

Examples include a Parent saying:

  • You should tell her to stop treating you that way
  • I don’t understand why you are so upset – just play with someone else.
  • I will talk to his mom and straighten this out.
  • You need to talk to the teacher about this tomorrow.

While this may be done with the best of intentions, fixing can communicate that the parent does not feel that the child can handle the situation. Fixing often leads to dependency and feelings of low self-esteem.

Conversely, Coaching entails asking your child a series of questions so that the child can decide how they want to handle a situation.

Examples include:

  • Is it a big deal or a little deal?
  • How do you feel about the situation?
  • Do you want to talk about it?
  • Do you want some help deciding what to do?
  • What have you tried?
  • How do you want to handle it?

While learning how to make good decisions for themselves, children will make mistakes (and hopefully learn from them) along the way.  Experiencing missteps in a safe place with a supportive parent, helps your child to grow in their social -emotional development to be socially competent (I know what to do and I know how to do it), fostering independence and self- esteem.

 

Preparing Your Child for a Hurricane

By Joanne Fleming, Director of Admission

Through all the hustle and bustle of preparing your home for Hurricane Dorian, we thought you might like some help with your child(ren)’s hurricane preparation kit. 

Many children (and adults) need distractions as the storm approaches and throughout. To help mitigate the growing trepidation, we suggest you consider the following activities for your child and your family.

  • Days before the storm, be sure to fully charge your child’s electronic devices (iPads, Chromebooks, iPods, laptops, portable gaming systems). Purchasing a portable battery charger may also be helpful.
  • Download movies, audiobooks and games onto these systems in preparation for power outages.
  • Give your child their own flashlight and headset to provide comfort and empowerment.
  • Help your child build a fort in a safe closet and pre-set it as a theater. Be sure to include snacks, a cooler with favorite drinks, a soft blanket, pillow, flashlight and of course … a noise-canceling headset so the sounds of the storm are reduced and do not distract from the movie or audiobook. Children can be frightened by the storm sounds and a headset can be very useful as a distraction. 
  • For families with pets, consider moving your pet’s bed into the “theater” for up-close snuggling and comfort.
  • Now is the time to dust off your family’s board games, puzzles and interactive games. BINGO and Twister are great group games for children and adults and extra fun to play by flashlight! UNO, charades and Pictionary can all be adjusted for a variety of ages. And remember, flashlight tag is an ‘ol favorite!
  • Have you ever played Table Topics? Check out this link for fun conversation/story starters for creative thinkers. 
  • Collect your family’s favorite “read-out-loud” books and have them easily available for “Flashlight Storytelling”. Consider a quick trip to the bookstore to allow your child to pick out a few new books and remember new coloring books and crafts, too. 

Changes to a routine can be challenging for some children. With safety as your first priority, we suggest you add fun into the mix as we all prepare for Hurricane Dorian. Forced to be inside with nowhere to go is a wonderful gift of family time. Stay safe! Have fun! Enjoy your family!

Our Chapel Theme for the 2019-2020 School Year – The Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit

by Mark Davis, 7th & 8th Grade Bible Teacher

This year, The Christ School’s Chapel theme is The Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14

Why the Trinity?
One of the distinctives of The Christ School is our commitment to worshiping and learning about God together through daily chapel. Every school year we learn new aspects about the Christian life through different chapel themes, and we are so excited to introduce this year’s chapel theme: The Trinity. At The Christ School, we believe in engaging students’ minds, hearts, and hands. This means we want students to grow in their knowledge of God, their affections for Him, and their love for others. It is our hope that children will grow in these three ways this year as they learn, worship, and love others at The Christ School. Exploring the Trinity in chapel this year will be a catalyst for their growth, and there are many reasons why learning about the Trinity is important. Here are just three of them: 

Understanding the Trinity is important because understanding God is important
Simply put, a deep understanding of the Trinity is a deep understanding of God. Christians should strive to learn more about God because we want to know Him and make Him known. Wouldn’t it be strange if a husband said, “I love my wife, but I don’t want to get to know her more than I already do.” Of course! If you love someone, you want to know more about them. The Trinity is simply a name that describes the nature of God’s existence: one God in three persons. This doesn’t mean there are three Gods, nor that God manifests himself in three different forms. God is one being in three persons: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is fully divine, yet distinct from each other and with different roles. God did not create us out of boredom or lack, but out of the divine love that overflowed from within the Trinity. To learn about God’s triunity is to learn about His holiness and beauty. We are excited to know Him better this year. 

The Trinity helps us understand the Gospel
It is common for Christians to have a one-dimensional view of salvation that falls short of what the Bible describes. Often the Gospel is seen through a humanistic lens that focuses primarily on mankind, our sin, and God’s forgiveness. While those elements are certainly true, understanding the trinitarian shape of the Gospel helps us appreciate God’s love in a new light. For example, as Christians, our identity is not that we are mere sinners who are forgiven. We are children of God adopted by the Father, purchased by the Son, and sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always existed in perfect love. We were created in God’s image to reciprocate that love and have dominion over the earth [Gen 1:26]. This beautiful relationship was marred by sin, but because of God’s abundant grace, He had a plan to redeem us. The Father sent His only Son to fulfill all righteousness and die on behalf of our sins [1 John 4:14], and this plan of salvation is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit [John 16:7-8]. If you are a Christian today, your sins are not only forgiven, you are adopted into the family of the Trinity. Benefactors of the Father’s love, co-heirs with Christ, and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Does that sound amazing? It is! 

Knowing about the Trinity helps us discern the truth
There is a common attitude in our society that everything is relative. You may have heard the phrase, “What’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me.” But this way of thinking is self-contradictory. Granted, people have different opinions and preferences about things that are inconsequential. However, for ultimate issues like God, morality, and salvation, what’s true is objectively true. So in a culture where ultimate issues are seen as relative, we need to know that Christianity is objectively true, not just one option of many. C.S. Lewis makes a compelling case for this. He argued that “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” 

The Trinity has been the defining doctrine of Christianity since the time of the Early Church, and understanding the Trinity is just as important today as it was then. The youth of today will grow into adulthood in an increasingly pluralistic society where all truth claims are seen as valid. If their understanding of God is just like their non-Christian peers and neighbors, it stands to reason that their lives will eventually match the culture that surrounds them. Learning about the Trinity will help students understand that Christianity is distinct from other religions. There are many who claim Christianity, Judaism, and Islam worship the same God because each tradition looks back to Abraham. But if they understand the Trinity, they will know Christianity is wholly unique. Throughout their lifetime, the faith of the next generation will be challenged. By instilling a biblical understanding of the Gospel and the Trinity, it is our hope that their deeply-rooted faith will grow and flourish to bear much fruit in a world that needs our Christian witness. 

 

Preventing Summer Brain Drain

By Amanda Gordon, Curriculum Specialist

Summer is here!  Summer vacation is a time families look forward to every year. Unwinding, playing, late bedtimes and outdoor activities are all part of the fun! But, how can parents keep children from losing some of the knowledge they gained over the school year? How can you help avoid the “Summer Brain Drain?” While summer workbooks can keep your child’s mind sharp, they often come with moans and groans. Here are some engaging activities that will inspire fun and creative learning and result in smiles and knowledge acquisition:

  • Going on a road trip? Pull out a road atlas and encourage your children to follow along on the roads you are driving.  Have them calculate the miles between your starting point and your destination. Can they pin the state capitals, discover which cities are the largest, and where the state line starts? This is also a wonderful time to learn the meaning of each road symbol.
  • Staying in the city? Orlando is filled with many educational twists and turns! Visit the Orange County Regional History Center, Orlando Science Center, or one of our many art museums. Explore the exhibits and have your child write down fun facts. When you return home, ask them to create a journal entry using their newly learned facts.
  • Heading to an indoor sports park? Counting each jump on the trampoline is a fun game. Who can jump the longest?  Calculate how far (in feet, inches, yards) you will fly on the zipline.
  • Running to the grocery store? Give your child a set amount of money to spend on a meal for the family. Make sure your child plans for an entree and enough side items to make a complete meal for everyone- all while staying within the budget!
  • Read everywhere! Road signs, maps or directions, and informational flyers about the places you visit are easy resources. As a fun family game, take turns finding words that start with each letter of the alphabet or that can be combined to create new words. When your child discovers a new word, have them look it up in the dictionary and create a word bank of new words they learned over the summer. Another good journaling opportunity! Visiting some place new? Read a book about the new location before your trip. Explore the history of the area, famous people who lived in the area and fun “don’t miss” activities for your family to enjoy.
  • Take reading outside – at the park, by a lake, or at the beach! Go into nature and find a cool, calm place to enjoy some peace and quiet while diving into that new book your family has saved for summer reading. Parents are encouraged to be good role models by reading alongside or out loud to their children.
  • Write about it! Children love to write postcards to friends and family detailing their summer fun. Remember to include family and friends outside the country, too. The post office is a wonderful summer field trip especially when sending mail, domestically or internationally. Is your child missing their school friends?  Have them write letters to friends describing their summer activities. Do you have a budding author? Encourage him/her to write a book, illustrate it and read it to siblings, grandparents and friends.
  • Kitchen activities can be a fun way to learn math skills and increase vocabulary! Research recipes that are interesting, different and easy for children to follow. Invite some friends and family over for your child to share their culinary skills. Double the recipe to add another level of math using measuring cups and spoons to calculate the ingredients.

These are just a sampling of activities children will enjoy that will help slow the “brain drain.” Most of all, we pray you will have a fun and safe summer and enjoy every new adventure your family embarks upon!  Happy summer from The Christ School!

Prone to Distraction

By Mary Boza Crimmins, Middle School Social Studies Teacher

My husband calls me “sidetrack Sally” because I’m prone to distraction. I admit I get lost in thought and often have multiple projects going at once. However, I’m also experienced enough to know which jobs require uninterrupted focus: lesson plans, research, personal devotions. Students I work with daily don’t have the same discipline and habits as me. 

Regardless of age, distractions hijack our thinking. For tweens and teens, the distractibility factor is even more intense. In part due to what education podcaster, Jennifer Gonzalez, calls the “trend toward hyperbole”. Gonzalez describes the “horror-movie screams” when her students spotted a spider. After 25 years of teaching students who are mostly native-Floridians, I laugh at how awe-inspiring rain is to them. You’d think they have never seen an afternoon shower. These episodes of over-the-top responses to everyday occurrences are common. Teachers know to handle these situations light-heartedly. Nevertheless, this tendency toward hyperbole is just one-way middle school students are distracted.

Multitasking is another focus thief. In Brain Chains,  a compilation of neuroscience research by Theo Compernolle, switching attention, AKA multitasking, is proven to come at a high cost. Consequently, the ding of an email, the swish of a new post, the pop-up from an incoming text message may seemingly last a few seconds, but has been scientifically shown to interrupt concentration for at least 2 minutes. Multiple interruptions lead to more drastic drops in concentration, quality and productivity. To demonstrate the perils of multitasking, I’ve conducted an activity shared in Brain Chains with around 100 students. Even after the students experience the activity, 97% take more time in the second round which requires multitasking. In the Organized Mind, another book sharing recent brain research, Daniel Levitin emphasizes how the reflecting brain cannot multitask. Reflection – deliberate, slow, thinking about learning and what to do with what is learned – is the goal of education.  

Developing the habit of focus is essential during adolescence because the brain is undergoing more changes than any other life phase, with the exception of the first two years. As David Walsh, an expert in adolescent development, emphasizes in Why Do They Act That Way?, tweens must “learn how to manage their impulses” and develop the habit of focus. Walsh stresses that even though the adolescent’s “brain isn’t fully under his control, it’s his responsibility to get in under control.”

So here’s eight reminders for parents regarding helping your child focus:

  1. Engage your child in conversations during which distractions are eliminated, including your phone.
  2. When your child speaks in hyperbole (My teacher always…, Mr. Brown never…, Everyone…), listen, but avoid the desire to fix the “problem”.
  3. Require that all digital device notifications, including those on FitBits or Apple Watches, are turned off.  Yes, everyone will survive if they are not instantly updated on Snapchat.
  4. Model and insist on digital device etiquette, including forbidding the wearing of earbuds when another person is present.  
  5. Provide a homework location in a common area such as the kitchen. Ensure that the area is free of distractions, including pets.
  6. Only permit the necessary digital devices during homework time. Digital devices are often NOT necessary for studying, so if no digital device is required, consider removing it from the room.
  7. Read, support and adhere to the digital device policy for your child’s school. Keep in mind, when one phone “accidentally” goes off in a classroom, it is a disruption to the learning for the entire class.
  8. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep, healthy diet and regular exercise.

An Attitude of Gratitude

With the Christmas season upon us, it is natural for children to imagine what gifts they might receive.  At a time when so many ads are targeted towards children for toys, games, and “things,” how do we teach children to be grateful for what they have? For more than just things? An attitude of gratitude can be helpful to a child’s well-being throughout their life. Understanding thankfulness, and truly being able to recognize their many blessings, helps establish a foundation for a joyful disposition.  

Christi Schwalk, first grade teacher, and Susan Dodgion, transitional kindergarten teacher at The Christ School (TCS), share their ideas on ways to help establish an “attitude of gratitude.”

Christi Schwalk says parents should “Model, model, model gratitude! Children are always watching their parents (and other adults) and learn from our actions. Make a point to tell your family why you are thankful for them. Purposefully speak about who you are thankful for in your life – Sunday school teachers, classroom teachers, mail carriers, sanitation workers – anyone who makes your life better. Then, teach your children ways to express that thankfulness. Can you leave a note? Give a cold water bottle on a hot day to someone who works outside? These are easy ways for children to show gratitude.”

Christi suggests that parents use the phrase “enough” with their child.  For example, “you have enough stuffed animals,” or “you have enough candy, you don’t need more.” “It sounds simple, but using that word early makes an impact later when you talk about how others do not have enough. We use the rule: “get one, give one” at our house. Get a Barbie doll for your birthday, give one that you are not using to someone who may not have one.” These conversations open the door (and a child’s heart) to a spirit of generosity and compassion.

“Serve together as a family and, serve often. Helping others in the community shifts the focus from what you get to what you can do. In the book of James, God calls us to take our faith and do something with it (James 2:14-26).

Our family plays High, Low, Change, Thankful at dinner. What was a high for your day?  A low? What would you change about the day?  Who or what are you thankful for today? We often talk about how we can express that thanks.

Point out that God blesses everyone in different ways for His purposes. There will always be people who have more than you and people who have less. Our job is to use our gifts, no matter how big or small, to help others.”

Susan Dodgion agrees with Christi. “Model thankfulness in your home. Adults can thank each other for dinner, for doing chores and everyday things we do for each other. Children don’t always understand what they have. Be sure to draw attention to them. Not so much things, but family, teachers, the love that surrounds them, pets, or the great school they attend.” Susan continues, “Remember to thank God for things all day long. For example, “Thank you, God, for this day.” “Thank you, God, for my comfortable bed. Every moment is a teachable moment.”

Being thankful and showing gratitude with happiness is a trait children will learn and reflect in their own thoughts and actions. Recognizing the many ways God has blessed each of us goes a long way for our happiness and that of our children!

Merry Christmas!   

Selecting the Right School for Your Family

by Joanne Fleming, Director of Admission

Selecting a school for your child may be one of the most significant investments you make. Just like families, schools have personalities, visions, passions, missions, that must be a good match for your family in order for the partnership to work. In my conversations with families, many questions arise as the family seeks to learn about our school and I seek to introduce them to our offerings. The following, big picture questions typically arise as parents decide on their school choice.

What is the difference between an independent school, parochial school and public school?
The biggest difference is the organizational management and funding. Independent schools are mission-based, typically non-profit in design, have tuition-based funding and a Board of Trustees that focuses solely on the school’s long-term vision and financial health. Independent schools have the freedom to assess students requesting admission into the school based on the school’s mission and academic platform. Enrollment is a privilege, not a right. Parochial schools are ministries of a church. They offer curriculum that compliments their denomination’s beliefs, typically receive funding via a budget allocation from the church and/or facility usage, in addition to tuition. They are managed by a Board of Elders, or the like, who are responsible for all of the church’s ministries. A public school receives tax-based funding and must admit all students who are zoned for the school. Charter schools, also under the public school umbrella, have a few more freedoms yet are ultimately accountable to the local public school board.

Do you have any openings?
In keeping with a private school’s academic focus, classes average in size. Private schools use waiting pools in grade levels that have reached their maximum capacity. Students in the waiting pool have been assessed and deemed mission appropriate. The waiting pool allows schools to manage offers of enrollment based on class dynamic, gender distribution, learning styles and personalities to build a class of students who will compliment each other to create an engaged learning community. Public schools must enroll all students within their zoning area.

How do I apply for financial assistance?
Each private school has a program that is designed for their admission/enrollment process. If financial assistance is a need for your family, be sure to discuss the financial requirements up front. No matter the program, having a need-blind enrollment process is a top priority. A school’s first concern should be to determine if they can serve your child within their academic platform. Through a need-blind system, financial assistance is processed only after an enrollment offer has been extended. Most school’s financial assistance is privately funded through the school’s budgeting process and is need-based. Allocations match the family’s need to the school’s ability to serve.

Tips for Interviewing a School

  1.  Schedule a tour when students are on campus. This will give you a feel for the school’s energy and personality.
  2.  Prior to the tour, review the school’s website, bring a list of questions to ask and take notes during the tour. Remember, this school must be a good fit for your family. Make sure the mission and vision of the school match your family. Ask the same or similar questions of each school you visit for quality compariables.
  3.  Ask to see the curriculum materials used in the classroom. What is the school’s academic philosophy?
  4.  Ask to speak with at least one grade-level teacher and students, if possible.
  5.  Ask to speak with a current family in the grade level to which you are applying. School culture is essential for you to understand – does it blend with your family?

Questions to Consider When Interviewing a School

  1.  Are differentiated teaching tools available in the classrooms and used by the faculty?
  2.  How much screen time will students experience per week and what technology resources does the school offer? (I would be looking for minimal screen time in the lower grades with more hands-on learning. Still looking for hands-on/project based learning all the way through high school however, the percentage changes.)
  3.  Is the school accredited? If yes, by whom?
  4.  What are the class sizes?
  5.  Are faculty credentialed and teaching within their certification area?
  6.  What are the professional development expectations of the faculty?
  7.  Does the school have a student support center? What services are offered?
  8.  Are after school enrichment programs offered?
  9.  Does the school offer an extended day program?
  10.  What is the school’s safety protocol?
  11.  Does the school have a STEAM lab? If not, how do they intentionally introduce STEAM-based learning?
  12.  Is project-based learning a priority? Ask for examples …
  13.  Does the school offer multi-age/multi-grade learning programs? Ask for examples …
  14.  Is recess offered and if so, how often and for how long?
  15.  What “special area” classes are offered?
  16.  Does the school offer a lunch program?
  17.  Are athletics offered and at what grades?
  18.  What is the school-wide discipline plan? What tools are used for classroom management? (Is the school looking for children to exhibit positive  behavior or, is the school watching for children to make mistakes?)
  19.  How will the school communicate with you? How many times per week and in what methods? How do you communicate with the teacher? How do you communicate with the school?
  20.  What is the school’s admission/assessment/enrollment process?

Remember, each school, just like your family, is unique. Select a school that compliments your desires for your child, will help advance your child’s passions, will partner with your family as bumps occur and celebrate when challenges are overcome. A strong family/school relationship is key for a student’s success. Choose wisely…

My Child is Struggling to Read… Now What?

 

by Jennie Farrant, Reading Teacher

Reading is a complex process that takes years to develop. As soon as children are born and introduced to the sounds of oral language, they begin developing literacy skills. However, it is years later before they begin to blend sounds together to form words. Since reading is not a skill children learn overnight, it can be difficult as a parent to recognize when your child is no longer learning to read but struggling to read.

These three steps will help you determine if the challenges your child is encountering in reading are a natural part of the learning process or may indicate the presence of a learning difference.

 

1. Look for signs.

When people think of dyslexia, letter reversals are likely what comes to mind first. Parents of young writers may notice reversals in their children’s work and say, “My child reverses letters. Does that mean she is dyslexic?” The answer is no. On the contrary, it is developmentally appropriate for young writers to have reversals until around seven years of age.

That may leave you wondering, “So what are the signs of dyslexia?” Signs of dyslexia vary by age and can become evident as early as preschool. Preschool age children may struggle to learn common nursery rhymes, identify the name of letters, recognize their names in print, and recognize whether or not words rhyme. Children in kindergarten and first grade may have difficulty associating letters and sounds, recognizing that sentences and words can be broken into parts, and sounding out simple words. For children in second grade and above, the act of reading may be very laborious and lack automaticity or fluency. Students may also guess at unfamiliar words since they lack the skills needed to decode them. These are just a few signs that children with dyslexia may display. For a comprehensive list, visit The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.

Low self-esteem and confidence may also indicate reading difficulties, even in younger students. As students enter school for the first time, they are generally excited to unlock the mystery of reading. However, if learning to read proves to be more challenging than anticipated, children may try to avoid reading or comment on its difficulty.

It is also important to consider whether your child has a family history of reading or spelling difficulties since dyslexia is often hereditary.

2. Talk to your child’s teacher about your concerns.

If you feel your child does display some of these signs, the next step is to speak with your child’s teacher about your concerns. In addition to possessing professional expertise, your child’s teacher spends several hours a day with your child and, academically, knows him or her better than anyone else!

Make sure to let the teacher know you are concerned about your child’s progress in reading and schedule a time to meet. This is not a conversation to have in the hallway during morning drop-off. Your child’s teacher will need time to gather work samples or classroom observations to support what she is seeing in the classroom and may want to invite other specialists from the school to join the conversation.

We are fortunate at The Christ School to have a community of educators who have been trained to recognize the signs of dyslexia and implement gold standard reading and spelling instruction. All of our teachers in TK-3rd grade have participated in 30 hours of Orton-Gillingham training through a Fellow of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. In addition, we have a Student Support Center that provides small-group intensive reading support to equip dyslexic learners with the skills they need to develop into proficient and confident readers.

3. Have your child evaluated by an expert.

If the teacher also has concerns about your child’s progress in reading, the next step is to schedule an evaluation by an educational psychologist. Check to see if your school has a specialist who can assist you in this process. At The Christ School, we have a Student Support Specialist who is well-connected in the Orlando area and can recommend psychologists who are experienced working with children who have specific needs.

Getting a psychological evaluation is often the most difficult, and the scariest, step for parents. However, it is one of the most integral. While it may be evident that a child is struggling to learn to read, the question is still…
Why? A psychoeducational evaluation provides that glimpse into what is going on inside a child’s brain. Without an evaluation, we can still utilize various strategies and best teaching practices to meet a child’s needs, but we can only speculate about the source of the difficulties. A psychological evaluation provides a roadmap by helping us understand exactly why a child is struggling so we can tailor instruction and offer accommodations to meet those needs.

In addition, the importance of early intervention cannot be overemphasized, and children are now being identified as dyslexic as early as five years of age. Research shows that as children are identified earlier, they are more likely to need fewer hours of intervention, maintain a high self-esteem, acquire content knowledge and vocabulary, and develop a love for reading.

If you would like more information on dyslexia, diagnosing dyslexia or the programs at The Christ School, please contact Alissa Plaisance, TCS Student Support Specialist.  

 

 

What type of learning is open ended, engaging, creative and mimics real world problems?

Steam 101
By Christi Schwalk, First Grade Teacher

What type of learning is open ended, engaging, creative and mimics real world problems? STEAM! It is comprised of five disciplines used collaboratively: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. The number of careers involving STEAM is growing rapidly in our country so preparing students today for the STEAM jobs of tomorrow is essential. Activities that focus on STEAM help children learn through trial and error, experimenting and problem solving. STEAM begins at home by pointing out how and why things in our everyday lives work. An acorn falls? It fell due to gravity. Families can also focus on activities that focus on one of the five disciplines of STEAM. Gardening, building forts, mixing paint colors, filling different sized containers and making a ramp to race play cars are a few examples. Parents can also encourage problem solving by asking questions such as, “What are you working on?” “What do you think will happen?” and “What else could you try?” Educators promote STEAM learning into the classroom by providing open-ended questions and allowing students the time and materials to solve them. The Christ School’s first graders chose an animal to research. In addition, they were asked to create a structure that would provide shade for their animal. Using their research about the animal’s characteristics and habitat, the students designed, measured, built, experimented, revised and re-built their structures until they provided shade for a clay replica of their animal. When STEAM education is in place, children learn to question like a scientist, design like a technologist, build like an engineer, create like an artist, and deduce like a mathematician!

Developing a Growth Mindset

By Aaron Farrant, Head of School, The Christ School

Developing a Growth MindsetAt The Christ School we are committed to developing great learners. One of the primary attributes of great learners is that they have a growth mindset. So many people are quick to say they cannot do something or they lack the natural innate ability to be successful in different areas of their lives. As an educator, I see this in children all the time. Children will say they aren’t smart, or they “just aren’t good at math”. The truth is no one knows what a child can accomplish with the proper training, strategies, and effort. Despite this truth, children and adults often identify areas where a child does not start off strong and prematurely decide the child cannot or will not be successful in that area.

Here at The Christ School we reject that idea. There are too many cases in which people struggled at first, but after time and effort they excelled. In fact, struggle is the way people learn best. When we try something new there are usually high levels of failure and only after we keep working and trying do we become proficient and begin to experience sustained success.

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Helping your child enjoy reading

A love for reading enriches lives in many ways; learning new things, facts about a favorite subject, gaining knowledge to enhance a craft, and even developing new interests. How can you encourage a love for reading in your child? Amanda Gordon, Curriculum Specialist at The Christ School, offers tips for parents to encourage a love of reading.

  • Helping your child enjoy readingRead to your young child often. When your child can read on their own, take turns reading the chapters.
  • Talk about the books together. Go to the bookstore or library and pick out books together – make it a fun activity!
  • Reading doesn’t always mean reading a novel. Maybe your child enjoys reading a certain type of magazine; this is still reading! If your child loves cartoons, you can introduce stories like Captain Underpants or Dogman. If they find a silly story on the back of a cereal box, let them read it. Let your child who likes putting things together read the user’s manual. Anything with words can be reading content, even street signs!
  • Give books as gifts. Find fun books about topics that interest your child, and share your excitement about the gift.
  • Research movies that are based on books. Have the child read the book first, and as a reward, take your child to the movie.
  • If a child is reading a book that is too difficult or boring, let him or her quit reading it and find something new. Reading shouldn’t be a chore. If you are forcing children to read something they don’t enjoy, they won’t enjoy reading. Don’t feel like your child has to read to the end of the book “just because.”

What if your older child hasn’t caught the reading bug? How can you encourage a love of reading at this stage?

  • Ask your older child to pick out a book and read it to younger siblings. By choosing the book, he or she will be interested in reading it.

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