Thursday, June 26, 2014


Look! See Jacquie. See Jacquie doing a happy dance! Why is Jacquie happy?    

A profound change has happened in the bully arena. In an article published January 26, 2014 on, the headline reads: “School ditches rules and loses bullies.” The principal, Bruce Mclachlan, at Swanson Primary School, in Aukland, New Zealand, signed up to be one of eight schools in an experimental study done by researchers at Aukland University of Technology and Otago University. Their goal was to promote active play. The principal went one further step and provided a playground free of “playtime rules.”

What happened over a two-year period is phenomenal. Children thrived on the playground, using their imaginations in “loose parts pit” which had stuff like wood, tires and an old fire hose. There was a decline in “bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.” After a two-year trial period, there was no need for a timeout area or as many playground supervisors. The experimental study is testing the theory that risk taking allows for the development of the frontal lobe of the brain, “meaning they (children) work out consequences.” In other words, active learning--as opposed to gaming, TV, and "playing by the rules"--encourages children to work out problems on their own, with each other.    

Of course, the downside to active play is letting children take risks that might cause injuries. In the USA, parents have demanded and enforced through litigation, restrictive rules and supervision on the playground. Ironically, this may foster the very bullying environment that prevents children from learning to negotiate the physical and social skills necessary to get along with one another. Educators and parents would have to agree to ‘back off’ and allow children to navigate their physical and social surroundings without an adult compromising each encounter. Fine in theory, but do I want my child to possibly be hurt? It seems it is a trade-off that merits consideration from the research; free range play with minimal supervision has a domino effect on growth, brain development and learning, as well as social skills.

It is worthwhile to Google “School ditches rules…” and check out the other articles, YouTube videos, and comments about this not-so-new-idea. If enough parents were motivated to attend elementary PTA meetings and teacher/parent conferences with significant proof that something can be done to stop bullying, think how all children could benefit, both the victims and the perpetrators. I think it would be worth the risk of jettisoning rules on the playground for a happier, healthier childhood.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Celebrating Resiliency: Kid Survivors are Everywhere

“...resilience is the ability to live creatively, with joy and satisfaction, whatever our circumstances. It’s like a beautiful flame inside of us that just needs fanning to take hold and transform any challenge into a gift. It’s a resource that when you call on it, can help you grow your life in surprising and beautiful ways.” - Becky DeGeorge, teacher and life coach

Writing for Resiliency: Young Readers as Survivors
By Sheila O'Connor, author of Keeping Safe the Stars

"[The Boxcar children] gathered dishes from the dump, made beds and brooms from pine needles, earned money for the family, found food, created their own home to replace the one they’d lost. They had integrity and courage, perseverance and imagination—all the qualities I longed for as a child.

Revisiting that story, I realized the deep impression that book had left on my young spirit, how much those resourceful children had informed the life I tried to live then, and later on the books I hoped to write.

For me, kids-on-their-own is more than a literary invention; it’s the life I lived, and the life countless kids still live now. In more ways than we’re able to imagine, kids get themselves to school, find food, feed their families, care for siblings, face challenges and miraculously find ways to solve problems for themselves.

Of course, I wish that it weren’t so; I always wish a parent or a teacher or a grandparent would step in to save the day, and often times they do, but just as often kids have to wait for help. Or ask. I see it in the schools; I see it on the street.

Kid survivors are everywhere. They’re in every neighborhood and school, they’re rich and poor, and too many of them have to keep their secrets to themselves.

When I write, whether I’m writing books for grown-ups or kids, a part of me is always in conversation with those children, survivor kids, kids who want to find their stories in a book."

Read the entire article>> 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Amazing Song About Bullying from Two Young Boys

Check out the YouTube performance of the duo, Bars and Melody, Charlie Lenehan and Leondre Devries, two young boys who recently went on the show Britain’s Got Talent and wowed everyone with their amazing song about bullying.

Read more here>>

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When Good Books Fall Flat

I finally finished Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Goldfinch by Pulitizer-winning author Donna Tartt, wondering if I have grown so jaded that I cannot appreciate a good book anymore. Both of these books have the potential to be more than a good read, although I found myself bored with the main characters and marveling at how much the plot thinned out in the resolution.

I haven't seen the movie "Divergent", but having read the book, think it would come to life on screen better than on paper. In The Goldfinch, the main character, Theo, spent a lot of his youth drugging and very little of his adulthood atoning for some very serious amorality. I suppose I may sound harsh, but I found his method of atonement rather facile and lacking in sincerity, or rather I think I found this plot device incredulous.

Then, a friend loaned me Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Smart, funny and a delight to read. Thank you, thank you, thank you!