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Gateway Academy Tour

Carolyn Means - Monday, August 27, 2018

A lot can happen at a school when I miss visiting for three years, and at Gateway Academy the changes are many. Cosmetic enhancements to the campus include resurfacing the parking lot and planters with crepe myrtle on the back deck. Beautiful new wood floors and classroom doors have transformed the inside of this school. Gateway serves about 70 middle and high school students who need a small, supportive school but want programs offered at main stream schools. Gateway has this figured out by placing all students in one of five houses named for ancient Greek city states - Athens, Sparta, etc. Each house has its own color and unique gryphon based on the school mascot. Student uniforms have also changed for the better. Students have shirts the color of their house and blue shirts for field trips. Each day students earn points for their house by demonstrating positive behaviors and teamwork. On my visit there was great excitement as students in each house were putting up their group-designed hallway bulletin boards. No doubt there would be points for the best. Gateway students begin their day with exercise on spinning bikes, or running, or using other stationary equipment that is also accessible if a student needs a short break. Social skills are taught as a course and at teachable moments. Business and college readiness skills are part of the curriculum and help students prepare for internships in the community. The culinary program teaches all students basic cooking, serving, catering, nutrition and sourcing healthy foods. I had a brief chat with a senior who spoke about SAT and ACT prep classes and the ease of being able to take these tests at Gateway. Theater is a popular class and the annual musical involves students on stage and behind the scenes. Performances are staged in the Gateway gymnasium before large audiences. Gateway is a member of TAPPS which enables students to play sports such as basketball or volleyball against other small schools. 

Thrive Academy - A New Houston School

Carolyn Means - Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My life's passion is for children to find joy in learning. I often use the phrase, "I want to find a school where your child will thrive." So how excited was I when Dr. 

Chris Zaddach, Interim Head of School and Admission Director, invited me to coffee to hear about a new school with the awesome name of Thrive Academy! Thechild who could be a perfect fit for this school is entering Grades 1-8 and has yet to find joy and success in school. Thrive will offer a low stress environment where there is a tolerance for movement, conversation, creativity, and achievement in a rich curriculum. This could be a child whose abilities are overshadowed by poor communication and executive functioning skills that often result in anxiety, discouragement and lower than expected achievement. The school has been dreamed of and backed by a strong group of parents and professionals. Thrive Academy is located at 1231 Wirt Road, just north of I-10 on the campus of the Houston Mennonite Church. Read the flyer on the Thrive Academy Facebook page for more about the mission of this new school. 

The American Child and Bubble Wrap

Kim Green - Thursday, May 10, 2018

Is it possible to be so protective of your child that your child develops anxiety? 

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “The Over-Protected American Child”
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-overprotected-american-child-1527865038 reported on a probable link between the two. The writer likened the over-protected child to being “wrapped in bubble wrap”. Since bubble wrap has been a constant presence in my life since Hurricane Harvey, I felt a stir of interest in the headline.

When Harvey filled our house with seven feet of Buffalo Bayou ten months ago, friends and family used bubble wrap to protect many of our things for storage during the months we were in a temporary apartment. Every time I opened online purchases replacing items lost in the flood, bubble wrap was the standard packaging. When it was time to pack up for our final move to our new mid-rise apartment, I used up four huge rolls of orange bubble wrap to protect fragile items. After unpacking, I enjoyed seeing all of our beautiful china and decorative items freed at last from the bubble wrap.

The WSJ article implies that America’s healthy children will also become more beautiful when they are freed to become emotionally strong rather than living an over-protected, “bubble-wrapped” existence. Efforts to protect our children have resulted in a generation of children wearing helmets on playgrounds and college students who retreat to safe spaces when they hear a comment with which they disagree.

Educators and psychologists have long known that the rise of anxiety among America’s children is linked to the underdevelopment of two key executive functioning skills - resilience (in the face of disappointment) and emotional regulation (such as impulse control). When children learn to share, lose a game, accept disappointment, wait for what they want, risk new experiences, do their own homework and projects, and to manage their emotions, they develop self-confidence. Without these coping skills, over-protected children will be anxious, indecisive, and concerned that they do not measure up to others. These children will not develop the ability to tolerate being alone, having to find their own entertainment, having to wait to be heard, or think about the feelings of others.

Long before this over-protecting trend took to the extreme, my favorite book on the subject was The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel. Another excellent book by Ellen Galinsky is Mind in the Making, The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. The most recent book on my shelf on this topic is Grit, by Angela Duckworth. If you find yourself reaching for the bubble wrap, try reaching for one of these books instead.

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Nothing is more important than your child's education. SCHOOL SOLUTIONS in Houston, Texas, offers educational consulting services to help parents make the right choice for their child’s school. As an Educational Consultant and founder of SCHOOL SOLUTIONS in 2004, I have helped over 1000 students find the right fit at over 90 different Houston private and public schools, from preschools to high schools, including special needs schools.

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