Still Time To Give Thanks

Still Time to Give Thanks

If you haven’t been properly thankful this November (and there could be a lot of reasons for that), I can solve your problem.  My solution deftly combines November’s two important holidays:  Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.  My solution is a way to say thank-you to our nation’s military families, whose loved ones are serving away from home during this month when the rest of us can be together.

It will take you only a few minutes to go to the website for United Through Reading and see what I am talking about.  UTR is a nonprofit organization that has figured out a simple, but powerful, way to keep military families better connected during a mother’s or father’s long deployment.  At 262 locations around the world last year, UTR set up the technical facilities to record videos of military service members as they read books aloud to their kids at home.  Once recorded, the videos were emailed or mailed home.

What could make more sense and be any easier or cheaper to do?  While everyone knows intuitively that this idea would absolutely work, here are some statements about the program’s impact, as quoted from UTR’s website:

Children’s anxieties fade.
Service members become part of daily life at home.
Spouses are supported because parenting is shared.
Homecomings begin with children welcoming a familiar parent, not a stranger.
Children learn to love books and reading.

And, in case you were wondering, UTR is the recipient of the 2016 Community Service Hero Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the 2015 American Prize of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program.  So, UTR is doing something right.

Parents of kids of all ages:  If you are thankful that your family was together on Thanksgiving, if you are grateful that there are military service members following in a long tradition of protecting and preserving, if you are proud that you had a family member in the military, or if you believe that hearing a bedtime story from a faraway parent is something that all kids deserve, then go to UTR’s website.

First, watch a video or two of families telling about their own experiences with UTR, if you need any more persuading.  Then, donate.  I did—in honor of my mother and father, my father-in-law, my uncle, and my cousin, who served with honor.  This is one great way to give thanks before November ends.

10-Year-Olds Think About College

10-year-olds think about college

About two months ago, BBC News reported on a study, conducted by the U.K.-based Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), of 16,000 students who had applied for undergraduate admissions to universities and colleges across the U.K.  The article’s headline says it all:  “Early university ambitions pay off, survey suggests.”

The article began with a bang:

“Children who know at 10 that they want to go to university are twice as likely to go to a selective one than those who decide at 16, a survey says.”

Mary Curnock Cook, the chief executive at UCAS, continued:

“This report is clear–the earlier children set their sights on university, the more likely they are to go.  We need to reset the barometer reading for progression to [higher education] to a much earlier age–10 or younger.”

Elementary school parents in the U.S., take heed.  Are you talking to your fourth and fifth graders about college right now?  If not, you should be, according to our friends across the Atlantic.

My colleague, Marie Segares, and I co-host USACollegeChat, a free weekly podcast for parents who think they could use a little help negotiating the complicated world of college admissions for their kids.  For two years, we have targeted high school parents as the likely audience for our episodes, but I am beginning to think we blew it.  Maybe we should be talking to middle school parents.  Maybe even elementary school parents!

Frankly, I have no doubt that the survey is right.  When our book came out last year (How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for High School Parents), an interviewer asked me when I started to talk to my own kids about college.  I said, “As soon as they could sit and talk at the dinner table–in their highchairs.”  I really wasn’t kidding.  Just ask them.

As Cook commented, “Having a focus on university helps provide the rationale for working hard.”  Have kids focus earlier than we might have thought, the study tells us.

What’s the downside?  I don’t see one.  Does it put more pressure on kids to do well in elementary school and middle school?  Maybe, but not as much pressure as they will feel later if they head into high school underprepared to take on rigorous academic work.

Parents of elementary school and middle school students, do this now:  Talk with your kids about all kinds of colleges all across the U.S. and abroad.  (If you need help, send them to Episodes 27-53 of our podcast for a virtual nationwide tour of colleges.)  Set expectations for going to college.  Have family members and friends talk about their colleges.  Visit college campuses informally.  Attend sports and cultural events at nearby colleges.

Parents, you can do these things, whether you attended college yourself or not.  If your kid is 10, the clock is ticking.