Tag Archives: New York

The Essential 55

55About seven years ago, I worked in an after-school program at a local elementary school. The program was for children in third through fifth grades who were having trouble in some of their classes at school. During that time, the director of the program encouraged the teachers to read The Essential 55 by Ron Clark. I was very impressed with the book then, and after recently picking up another copy, I find I am still impressed today.

When he wrote the book, Ron Clark was a young teacher from North Carolina who had taught at some of the most difficult schools in the country, including one in Harlem, New York. The differences he made in the lives of his students earned him recognition as the Disney Teacher of the Year in 2001. Through his experiences in the classroom, he compiled the 55 rules found in this book. As I’m now re-reading through the rules with my children, we’re finding many that apply to our family.

55 rules? Isn’t that a lot? It is, but Clark’s students were able to memorize all 55, and by the end of the year they were following all the rules. Take a look at the 55, and see if there are some you’d like to use in your homeschool. Some of the rules we chose include:

  • When responding to adults, say ‘Yes, Ma’am,’ or ‘No, Sir.’ Just nodding your head is not acceptable.
  • Make eye contact with the person who is speaking to you.
  • When someone wins a game or does something well, congratulate that person.
  • Always say thank you when you are given something.
  • If someone bumps you, even if it was not your fault, say “Excuse Me.”
  • If you approach a door and someone is following you, hold open the door.

These sound like basic life skills and manners that our children should have, but we’ve realized that they are things my children don’t always do and things I tend to overlook. So…we’ve begun compiling our 55 rules — or however many we come up with in the end.

Do you need some rules for your classroom? Check out this book, and then go from there!

Perch, Mrs. Sackets, and Crow’s Nest

P1050102Many homeschool curriculums are literature-based, and lists of good literature are available online and at the library. Most people are familiar with the classics, such as the books by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, or Jane Austen.  While we use the classics in our studies, we like to read more contemporary books together during lunchtime (I read aloud while the children eat), some of our favorites being the Junie B. Jones series and the Trailblazer missionary stories. New books are being published every year, and we like to try those out too. Some are good, some not-so-good. We usually don’t finish the not-so-good ones, but Perch, Mrs. Sackets, and Crow’s Nest is one I would definitely recommend.  

The story is about ten-year-old Andy Parker who goes to spend the summer with his grandmother in the country. His dad has passed away, and now his best friend is moving — things are changing, and he suspects a new chapter in his life is going to begin. Set in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, Perch, Mrs. Sackets, and Crow’s Nest describes Andy’s activities with his mother’s friend John, his grandmother, and the neighbor, Mrs. Sackets. 

Written in first person, the story softly conveys Andy’s feelings and reactions to his changing world. Through Andy’s voice, author Karen Pavlicin, who lost her own husband to cancer, leads the reader gently through the changes as Andy realizes that even as he experiences loss, life is still full of hope. 

Since we began homeschooling eight years ago, I’ve known of several families in the area who have lost parents or children because of automobile accidents or illness. Even though I  lost my own father twelve years ago, I can still only imagine what they are experiencing. But for those families, I think Ms. Pavlicin’s book carries a timeless message: “With a little bit of faith, we’ll make it through a lifetime of changes.”