Robyn Barberry is the doting wife of her high school sweetheart, the mother of three precocious boys, and the art teacher at St. Joan of Arc school in Aberdeen.

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What an awesome, well planned & fun event. Just the thing to shake off those winter blues. . . some PINKS! We had a lovely time with family friends and NEW friends. There were vendors with great products or sale. Oh yes there was splendid wine and sumptuous lite fare. Everyone created a lovely work of art. All this while contributing to SJAs much needed playground. Couldn't have asked for a better day! Congratulations on a FUN and successful event. (Next time can we paint a seaside scene?...that's my happy place)

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Very moving, thank you!

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Unconditional

Shea Moisture: Skin and hair problems solved by nature -- for babies, kids and moms

My boys and I suffer from both dry, sensitive skin and even drier, complicated hair. Typical, drug-store brand skin and hair products only make our problems worse. For years, I’ve struggled to find a company that makes soaps, lotions, shampoos and conditioners that offer us the gentle, yet rich moisture we need. I also prefer to use the least amount of chemicals on and around my kids that I possibly can, sticking to natural ingredients. Oh, and I’d like to do all this without breaking the bank. (Three kids can go through a bottle of bath wash pretty quickly!)

I stumbled upon Shea Moisture’s Olive & Marula Baby Head-to-Toe Wash & Shampoo back in January in the Target clearance rack. I was killing time waiting for a prescription, so I read the label, and found myself impressed by the natural ingredients that were in it, like avocado oil, jojoba, and, of course, shea butter. Equally impressive was the list of all the yucky chemicals that weren’t included in the product. I unscrewed the lid to see what it smelled like. (Sometimes natural products have a funky, overpowering incense-like scent.) It had a fresh, green tea aroma that would work for any member of my family. Next, I looked up product reviews on Amazon. It had a high rating and only a few people claimed the fragrance was too strong. So, I bought the twin-pack of Head-to-Toe Wash & Shampoo and Head-to-Toe Lotion for $15.   



Fast forward three months and I want to shout from the rooftops about the dramatic changes Shea Moisture’s Head-to-Toe Wash & Shampoo and Lotion have made for my boys’ skin – and mine. Winter is especially damaging to our skin. We often find ourselves broken out in eczema. Sometimes our skin cracks so much it bleeds. But, we managed to get through this past winter with skin that was toned, even radiant, thanks to Shea Moisture. In fact, the Wash is so effective, that I only need to use the lotion once a week.

I found that Walgreen’s also carries Shea Moisture products and that periodically they run a buy-one-get-one-50% off (or even FREE!) sale. I stocked up in February, and Yesenia, the beauty advisor in the Aberdeen store, suggested I try She Moisture’s hair products. I have a frustrating mane of elbow-length naturally curly (more like frizzy) hair and am always on the look-out for new products to help me tame the beast. I tried Shea Moisture’s Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo, Conditioner, Curl Enhancing Smoothie, and Frizz-Free Curl Mousse and developed the perfect formula for soft, strong curls that shine without crunching or flaking. I’m finding I wear my hair down far more often than I usually do. I can’t believe I’ve been battling for three decades without this stuff!







My favorite Shea Moisture product has got to be the Raw Shea Cupuacu Mommy Stretch Mark Intensive Repair Oil. I managed to get through my first two pregnancies with minimal stretch marks, thanks to Palmer’s Cocoa Butter, but when my 3rd-timer, 12-pounder occupied my belly, no amount of moisturizer could protect my skin from the damage of carrying that monster of a baby. Fortunately, between that pregnancy and this one, my skin has improved. But, I can’t help but wonder how much better my abdominal skin could be if I had discovered Shea Moisture’s Mommy Stretch Mark Intensive Repair Oil a little sooner. Here I am, nearly seven months into my pregnancy, and my belly is as smooth as it was before I discovered I was having my fourth child. She is also shaping up to be a monster baby, but it looks like my belly is going to escape largely unscathed, thanks to Shea Moisture. (Sorry, but I'm not including a picture. I'm very modest. You'll just have to take my word for it!)




By far the coolest thing about Shea Moisture, is the story behind it:

Sofi Tucker started selling Shea Nuts at the village market in Bonthe, Sierra Leone in 1912. By age 19, the widowed mother of four was selling Shea Butter, African Black Soap and her homemade hair and skin preparations all over the countryside. Sofi Tucker was our Grandmother and SheaMoisture is her legacy.  

Shea Moisture is fair trade, organic, sustainable and free of animal cruelty. I like to purchase from ethically-minded companies like this, particularly those that use nature as a source for solutions to human problems. You'll pay a little bit more than you would typical brands, but it lasts a long time and you're paying for quality. Besides, I think it’s what God would want us to do.

You can find Shea Moisture in most drug stores, usually on a top or bottom shelf, or in an ethnic skin and hair care section. I only discussed the varieties that work for my family's skin and hair needs, but they have something for everyone! Try it. I’m sure you’ll love it!

April 26, 2016 04:36
By Robyn Barberry


Primarily independent


It’s Primary Tuesday in Maryland, and just about everyone on my social media feed is bombarding me with reminders to vote. I’ve even had several people tell me that if I don’t vote, I don’t have a right to complain. There’s just one problem: I can’t.

I generally don’t like to discuss politics, for several reasons.

1. I can’t stand the arguing and the tension political debates cause.

2. I don’t consider myself an “expert” on “the issues.” (With 3.75 kids and a career, I’m too busy to keep up with all that.)

 -- and –

3. There are so many more interesting things to talk about. (Like the Orioles.)

 I’ve also found it difficult to find others who share my views on how the government should be run. I don’t side with the Republicans or the Democrats, or any other party for that matter. For that reason, I am a registered independent.   

Unfortunately, in the state of Maryland, that means that I am ineligible to vote in the primaries. Personally, I find that that policy puts voters in an unfair “forced choice” situation. I chose not to decide. (And according to the band Rush, I still have made a choice.)

Honestly, even if I could vote today, I’d be hard-pressed to find a candidate who would govern this country according to my prolife, prosocial values. Our president should look out for the welfare of all U.S. citizens, born, unborn, incarcerated, impoverished, in public service, and in turmoil. Our next president should work toward economic stability, international and domestic tranquility, and environmental security. Unfortunately, my ideal candidate is ineligible because he’s not an American citizen, and he already has his hands full at his current job. (His name is Pope Francis.)

Pope Francis has already been vocal on American politicians' statements on immigration. And Bernie Sanders recently attended a Vatican conference on social justice. Sanders admits to admiring Pope Francis, but, his pro-choice beliefs still cause him to fall short of earning the votes of some Christians.

It’s tough being Catholic during elections like this, when so many of our values are split between two starkly opposite parties. So, while I wait for the president of my dreams, I will pray that our country will find itself in the best hands possible. God bless America!

April 26, 2016 01:25
By Robyn Barberry


The reveal


What's it gonna be? Blue or pink?


From the moment I announced that I was expecting my fourth child, friends and strangers alike have asked the inevitable question every pregnant woman finds herself answering over and over again: “Are you finding out what you’re having?”

“I never have,” was my consistent reply.

It’s true. Unlike most women (at least the ones I know), I chose to wait until each of my first three children made their grand entrances into the world to find out whether I’d have a son or a daughter. And each time, my OB shouted out “It’s a boy!”

Part of me always wanted a girl. There’s a line from the song “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire that goes, “Can’t you understand/that I want a daughter while I’m still young?/I want to hold her hand and show her some beauty before the damage is done./But if it’s too much to ask/if it’s too much to ask/send me a son.” All I ever wanted was a healthy baby, but I couldn’t help but wonder what it might be like to have a little girl.

All of my prom dresses hang in the back of Collin and Frank’s closet, just in case I had a daughter who liked to play dress-up (or wanted to wear something vintage to a high school dance). I’d held on to my wrought iron bed and some of my favorite books and my American Girl doll (Felicity) because I wanted to relive a few slices of my childhood vicariously through my own little girl. I wanted someone to get pedicures with me and watch the kind of movies where nothing blows up. I wanted to shop for a First Communion dress and help plan her wedding and hold her baby one day. I wanted to raise a young lady who wasn’t the damsel in distress, but a benevolent force who would improve every corner of the world she touches – just by being her strong, sweet self.

My best friend Melissa has two amazing little girls. They’re spunky and, even though they love princesses, they’re not your typical “girly-girls.” (Two-year-old Nora’s favorite color is blue and four-year-old Stella is a huge Darth Vader fan.) The boys adore the girls and treat them like sisters. I know that if I ever had a little girl, Collin, Frank, and Leo would protect her, play with her, and pester her, just as big brothers should.

In December, while we were visiting Melissa and the girls, I told Melissa that I was going to break tradition and find out what I was having. It was hard to explain why, though.

When it comes down to it, I suppose it’s about preparation and planning. In general, I’m not much of a planner. I tend to make loose plans and graciously accept the twists and turns God sends my way as an opportunity to hone my on-the-spot problem-solving skills and discover the great plans He has in store for me, rather than the ones I orchestrate for myself.

On the other hand, having a large family calls for a little bit more organization on my part. I will always accept what God sends my way, but I think He’d like for me to be prepared, as well. Adding a fourth child means rearranging bedrooms and having all the clothing, blankets, and other essentials ready for his or her big arrival. Since I consider myself a pro at this now, I have a good idea of what my newborn will require to be safe, comfortable, and content(-ish) in the early days of his or her life. I’ve acquired a massive amount of stuff for little boys over the years, but I couldn’t help but wonder…what would happen if I had a little girl?

She’d wear the green, yellow, and white gender-neutral attire her brothers wore in their early days, and I supposed she and Leo would share a jungle-themed room. I didn’t want to drown her in pink. Or did I?


Melissa and just-born Collin (in his gender-neutral sheep sleeper.)



I asked myself if I really needed to wait for the OB to tell me I had a son or a daughter in the harried moments before the baby is placed on my chest. Wouldn’t I be equally surprised if I found out sooner rather than later? It’s not like I had a say in the matter. God had already chosen whether I was having a boy or a girl. My job was to accept the gift with open arms. But, there wasn’t any harm in peeking, right?

 “And here’s the best part,” I told Melissa. “You’re going to reveal it at our St. Patrick’s Day party.” Her blue-green eyes widened and she let out one of her enthusiastic signature laughs.

Fast forward a few months and Patrick and I are having our sonogram done by the same woman who gave us a peek at Collin, Frank, and Leo when they were the size of a banana. “You don’t want to find out what you’re having, right?” she asked. Patrick and I looked at each other. “Actually, we do,” I explained, “but not today.” She told us to look away and wrote our baby’s gender on a small piece of paper which she promptly sealed in an envelope, which Melissa picked up a few days later. Our fate was in her hands.

Our St. Patrick’s Day party is one of the highlights of our year. All of our friends and family gather to celebrate our Irish heritage (actual or adopted for the day). It fell on Melissa’s birthday this year, and I’m honored that she chose to celebrate by preparing a special surprise for us. Only Melissa, her husband, Mark, and another of our closest friends, Bob, knew about our secret plan. When just about everyone arrived, I gave Melissa the nod. Bob cued up the video camera on his phone as Melissa and the girls entered the room with an enormous box decorated to look like a leprechaun’s hat.

“We swore we’d never do this, but we’ve decided to find out what we’re having!” I told everyone. Patrick and I pulled the tape on the top of the box and…four pink balloons came flying out! The entire room cheered. I jumped up and down. Patrick’s grandmother shed tears of joy. Leo was just happy to have a balloon (but I’m not quite sure how happy he’s going to be to have a baby sister).




Since then, I’ve been preparing for my little girl’s arrival. The day after the St. Patrick’s Day party, my mom and I picked out a gorgeous bohemian-inspired, elephant-themed bedding set for her room.



We moved all three of the boys to one bedroom. (They love it!) I bought the baby a few irresistible dresses and, of course, headbands to match.



Meanwhile, I gave most of the boys’ baby clothes to a former student who is having a little boy. Patrick and I settled on a name we love. (You’ll find out next time!). I even booked her baptism.   

I like new experiences, and I’m glad I decided to find out my baby’s gender this time around. I’m generally a person who enjoys mystery, even ambiguity, but I have found that this time it’s easier to imagine what life is going to be like when she (isn’t that nice to say?) gets here. There will be hair to be braided and jewelry to be collected and Irish dances to be performed and so many aspects of her personality to be discovered. And when she arrives, we’ll be ready for her.

April 17, 2016 02:23
By Robyn Barberry


Catching up with Frank, part II: A change of plans

Friday March 11th was the best day Frank and I have ever spent together. Like always, he woke up smiling, eager to start another day of adventures. He ran into school and immediately sat down in the big circle with his friends. He said “goodbye” to them and his teacher when I picked him up. He even used their names. He explained and demonstrated how to make a peanut butter sandwich during speech therapy and played quietly with foam letters during the St. Joan of Arc School Lenten Souper, spelling as many words as he could. He was the perfect date during my St. Patrick’s Day party shopping trip. (His favorite part was checking out the vegetables.) He fell asleep in my arms when we got home.

Although this was a good day for Frank, it wasn’t a typical day. Sometimes he chooses not to listen. Sometimes he chooses to wander. Sometimes he chooses to be difficult rather than cooperate. Because of his developmental delays, Frank’s behavior can be unpredictable.

Fortunately, Frank was born to the right mother. I might not be the most organized person in the world, but I am flexible, patient, calm, and compassionate. I possess all the characteristics required to raise a child with special needs, and that’s why God gave Frank to me.

Don’t get me wrong. Taking care of Frank is far from easy. Sometimes it’s exhausting. It’s a constant game of testing limits (his and mine), adjusting expectations, on-the-spot problem solving, overcoming heartaches and celebrating small victories. I am his teacher, his coach, his cheerleader, his security guard, his advocate, his voice. Frank has taught me that the kind of love a mother has for her child with special needs is almost as great as the unconditional love God has for all of His children.

Over the past few days, I’ve had to make some difficult decisions about Frank’s future. During what was supposed to be a fun sports class, Frank couldn’t leave the cones alone that his coach had set up for a slalom course to the basketball hoop. He kept interfering with the other kids’ game, so we left. Since this wasn’t the first time Frank struggled to understand the rules, I had him permanently removed from the class. I want Frank to have the chance to gain social skills in a group environment, but this wasn’t a good situation for him, his coaches, his teammates, or their parents.

I cried the whole way home, not only because he couldn’t make it in the class at the gym, but also because Patrick and I have decided that St. Joan of Arc’s preschool isn’t going to be the best place for him, either. As wonderful as SJA's preschool is, between his IEP and the admissions testing, we don't think Frank is quite ready for such a rigorous program. Frank has made remarkable progress over the past two years, but he still has a long way to go.

I had imagined seeing him in his uniform, and teaching him how to paint, and watching him on the playground next year. I knew that if there was a problem, I could be there in an instant. When you have a child who needs you, you want to be close to them, too. But, sometimes in pursuing what we want for our child, we are missing what he really needs.

We’re searching for a more suitable environment where Frank can get the kind of attention he needs. It’s not easy. His language and social deficits make it hard for him to perform at the same level as his peers. But, the more time he spends with kids his age, observing them and engaging with them, the more he will grow. Since he's been in a three-year-old preschool program, I’ve even seen progress in the way Frank plays with his brothers. (Hopefully he will be equally kind to our new baby.)

Finding a teacher who is willing to put in the extra work it takes to work with a child like Frank is the hardest part. Not everyone has what it takes to teach students with special needs. It requires more patience, more flexibility, more effort, more willpower, and more kindness than it does to teach "normal" kids. Special education teachers embrace the opportunity to grow and help someone else grow, knowing that the moments where you want to tear your hair out are soon followed by moments of incomparable triumph.

Frank is named after my grandfather, Frank A. Chrest, who was a gifted special educator. I wish he was here now to give me advice about how to be a better parent and teacher for Frank. I like to think that he passed along his gift for working with the most challenging students to me. It’s what grants me the fortitude to reach the kinds of kids that other teachers dismiss. It’s what enables me to understand Frank when it seems like no one else does. It’s one way I can approach others with open arms like Jesus did.     

 

March 28, 2016 01:38
By Robyn Barberry


Holy Week: reflections from Aberdeen


I’m blessed to live a life where I am constantly surrounded by reminders of my faith. Teaching in a Catholic school and passing by my church every day, I seldom forget the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for me and find myself expressing my gratitude to God for all of His blessings more often than I think I would if I weren’t so immersed in my faith.

This is especially true during Holy Week, when it’s impossible to avoid solemn observations of Jesus’ death and the glory of his Resurrection in my home, work, and parish lives. Here are a few of the ways I found myself reflecting upon this most sacred time – without ever leaving my neighborhood.

The Art of the Cross

All of my students made crosses this week in art class.

Younger students used popsicle sticks and embroidery thread.



Older students used nails, wire, and beads.


Living Stations

Our amazing youth minister and middle school religion teacher Nate Nocket and the 7th grade class prepared and performed an impressive living Stations of the Cross production. The music was beautiful and included two songs I’ve fallen in love with, "Good, Good Father," by Chris Tomlin and "Shoulders" by For King and Country. Our 7th grade class is full of musically gifted students, so their performance was outstanding.




Ecumenical Cross Walk

In conjunction with neighboring parishes Grove Presbyterian Church and Grace United Methodist Church, St. Joan of Arc Church participated in a moving procession of the Cross, pausing to reflect upon the Stations and singing “Were You There?” Even Frank chimed in with “Tremble, tremble, tremble…” from the stroller. Over 100 people participated. We shared a light lunch in the SJA parish hall afterwards. It was a nice time to get to know other followers of Christ.



Easter Mass

I haven’t been taking both Frank (3) and Leo (2) to Mass, but on Easter, our whole family celebrated Jesus’ victory over death. Even more exciting was seeing so many of my students and their families. I think even Frank and Leo could sense the excitement in the air. I wish I’d taken a picture of all of us outside of church, but here’s a nice family photo from my aunt’s house, where we gathered with our loved ones to celebrate our faith.

March 28, 2016 12:51
By Robyn Barberry


Catching up with Frank





It’s been almost two years since we learned that Frank has significant language and social developmental delays. But, we have chosen to delay slapping a label on him. Is he autistic? Does he have ADHD? Is it an auditory processing disorder? Maybe it’s one of those things. Maybe it’s all of those things. Maybe it’s none of those things.

What we do know is that Frank experiences the world differently than most three-year-olds. He’s shy. He’s quiet. He doesn’t always understand what we’re telling him or asking him. He seldom participates in group activities, choosing instead to play by himself, by his own rules. He can solve sixty-piece puzzles in mere minutes. He carries an apple everywhere he goes. He can't take big crowds, loud noises, and lighting that is too bright or too dark. He needs to be held in a human vice to fall asleep. He has a burning desire to explore and investigate everything. In fact, I call him “Curious Frank” after his favorite storybook character, Curious George.



The progress he’s made in two years with the help of a very special team of teachers and therapists is incredible. He makes more eye contact. He has hundreds of words (he can spell over thirty of them).



I made a video of him singing "Happy Birthday" to his godfather the other day. To my delight, he’s recently developed a love for painting and listening to stories. "Let's make art," is my favorite thing he says.


Most of the time, he asks for things rather than devising elaborate and dangerous plans to procure them himself. I’m not petrified of venturing out into public and having him run away from me anymore (though I can’t take my eyes off of him at the playground). He attends a wonderful Christian preschool with patient and kind teachers who adore and protect him. He has even made a few friends. He voluntarily goes to Mass, points at the risen Christ above our altar and says, “Jesus is everywhere.”

After much deliberation, Patrick and I decided to send Frank to St. Joan of Arc for preschool next year. Our four-year-old program is a rigorous five-day-a-week, all day experience, which is exactly what Frank needs to grow socially and academically. The Pre-K teacher and her assistant have created a nurturing, structured environment that will provide Frank with a safe, challenging, and exciting place to learn. I could not think of more capable hands to trust him with. (And I hear the art teacher/librarian is nice.)

Some days, I second guess myself. We enrolled Frank in a multi-sports program for preschoolers at our gym. When I took him to his first session on Tuesday, I watched for a couple of minutes to see what he would do. I used to think that I needed to include a preface every time I introduced Frank to someone new to explain why he doesn’t talk, listen, and behave like most three-year-olds, but I’ve decided to wait until someone needs to know about Frank’s differences.

A few minutes into the class, the dozen or so other kids were lined up and kicking their soccer balls toward the goal. Frank picked up his ball and ran around on the other side of the gym. When the teacher called after him and he didn’t respond, I interjected.

“Frank has some developmental delays, so he might not always understand you the first time,” I said.   

“Oh, then, I’ll just leave him alone and let him do what he wants,” she said.

Her response frustrated me. I put him in the class because I wanted him to learn some social skills. “All he needs is your patience,” I said. By the end of class, he was participating with the other kids. Sometimes, he just needs time to explore.



In a few weeks, Frank will visit SJA’s preschool to get to know his teachers, his classroom, his routine, and some friends who are headed to kindergarten. We will develop an Individualized Education Plan (or IEP) with his special education team so that he has the resources he needs to learn in his unique way. I can’t wait to watch him grow at SJA and will continue to pray every day that Frank can develop the social and communication skills he needs to make his dreams come true.  

 

March 13, 2016 04:28
By Robyn Barberry


A super “souper”

Advancement Director Lauren Hayden (L), Physical Education Teacher Megan Blackburn (R) and baby William were gracious hosts.


St. Joan of Arc’s new advancement director Lauren Hayden was at it again on Friday March 11th, with a Stone Soup-inspired Lenten “Souper” event. It was held at 5:30 in the SJA parish hall as a way to bring our church and school closer together.

Students from each grade brought in a different ingredient to contribute to our “community soup,” just as the villagers do in the folktale Stone Soup.

Lauren’s mix of vegetable broth, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, green beans, onions, corn and peas was the perfect Lenten Friday dinner, especially accompanied with whole grain baguettes and fresh green salad. Sharing a meal with my students, their parents, my awesome co-workers, and other SJA parishioners was even better.



After the meal, the adults and older students attended Stations of the Cross while Lauren read our school library’s copy of Stone Soup, complete with Caldecott-award winning illustrations. The children were excited to get to spend an evening together and were reminded of the importance of caring for each other as Jesus did for us. I hope this is a tradition we can keep up every Lenten season.   

Eva and Hope color Jesus carrying the cross.


Best friends Danny and Collin were happy to spend a Friday night hanging out together.

March 13, 2016 02:56
By Robyn Barberry


Art in bloom: SJA’s first wine and paint event


It was an honor to teach these talented artists.


Catholics have a long-standing tradition of creating beautiful art. So, when St. Joan of Arc’s new advancement director, Lauren Hayden, invited me to host an afternoon of guided painting on February 27th, 2016 to raise money for our school, I channeled the powers of my patron, St. Catherine, and set forth on a new adventure: teaching art to adults.

I’ve attended several social painting events, including a fabulous evening with my childhood art teacher, Susan Thomey, (who was kind enough to lend me some supplies for SJA’s event.) But, could I teach adults step-by-step how to create a masterpiece they’d be proud to display in their living rooms?

I decided on a flower because most people tend to like them and one simple bloom wouldn’t be too complicated for beginners. I chose a dogwood in honor of Spring, particularly Easter, as the flower is often seen as a symbol of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The four petals make up the cross, with the divots on each petal signifying the nail marks. The bumpy center of the dogwood flower resembles the crown of thorns Jesus wore.

Generally when I paint, I don’t have a plan, I just go with it. But, every brush stroke I made on my sample painting was a piece of the puzzle I was creating for my students to solve. Ultimately, their pieces would be as unique as they were, but, as their guide, I would light the path that would lead them to their own vision of a dogwood bloom.


Here's my model.


In the days preparing for the event, I gathered materials, fretted over orders that almost didn’t make it on time (thankfully they all did), and watched in amazement as my talented husband assembled over thirty easels. My nerves mounted. Would my directions make sense to someone other than myself? Would I pace myself properly? Would I run out of paint? Would someone get frustrated and quit? Would my students walk away satisfied?  

I prayed, as I do in all creative endeavors, for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and, as always, they were delivered in abundance. The room was full of my students’ parents, coworkers, and my awesome mom. After giving a pep talk, I delivered instructions, offered one-on-one guidance, generously dispensed compliments, and enjoyed the company of my new favorite artists. And just as Jesus was able to provide enough bread and fish for the crowd who gathered to see him, I had plenty of paint to go around.


That's my mom, putting down her base layer.


Our first Wine and Paint event was a tremendous success. I’m looking forward to the next one, a beach scene on a canvas tote bag. We’re planning on hosting it at a vineyard for a plein air adventure that artists of all kinds will enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 05, 2016 03:39
By Robyn Barberry


Responsibilities and rewards: In praise of the chore chart


A former colleague and mother of six grown children recently posted an article on Facebook about the harms associated with sticker charts used to reward children for completing chores and behaving appropriately. The author, Erica Reischer, argues that the transaction of tangible treats (yes, even stickers) in exchange for pro-social behavior establishes an inappropriate “market” situation, which causes children to expect to be rewarded for behaviors that should offer intrinsic rewards or be habitual rather than voluntary.

Ironically, Patrick and I had just started using such a chart with Collin, who at the age of six, is now old enough to make more significant contributions to the running of our household and management of his school materials. Collin received the wooden magnetic Melissa and Doug chart for Christmas. It hangs outside of our kitchen. His tasks for the day are displayed on ever-changing wooden tiles on the left. The days of the week form columns to the right. When Collin accomplishes a task, he receives a wooden smiley-face magnet in the appropriate square. We were even able to add a few chores on blank tiles, such as “get uniform together.”



After the first week, I told Patrick that the chart was working. Collin would survey his list of chores after dinner and earn magnet after magnet for loading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, packing his lunch, and putting his shoes by the door. “New broom sweeps well,” Patrick murmured.

Two months later, we continue to see positive results with Collin. Sometimes he doesn’t even need to check the chart if he knows that it’s Sunday and he needs to put the trash by the curb or that he finished his other chores so he needed to take a shower and brush his teeth.

There are no rewards for earning all of his sticker magnets. It feels like Collin is treating it more like the to-do list I create for myself when I get to work each morning. Putting a magnet in each square is the completion of a necessary task, rather than a step toward a big prize. Considering that perspective, I think Erica Reischer would have a more favorable opinion of our chart.

One “task” that is always on his chart, which Reischer would probably condone, is “Show Respect.” It’s a big deal at St. Joan of Arc, along with responsibility and leadership. Together, they form the foundation for our school's behavior management system (PBIS) and associated Class Dojo program. I try to reinforce those values at home, and sometimes kids need a visual representation of such abstract, complicated concepts. So, if Collin loses points for talking during instruction at school, he can’t earn his respect sticker at home. The following day we pretty much always see an improvement in his demeanor at school and at home.

Accountability is an essential skill that children need to learn early on. But expecting them to participate in household chores without offering a visual or tactile system to track their performance may be asking too much until they are capable of more abstract thought. Yes, I want my children to understand that being a part of a family means making contributions, but our chore chart might just be the training wheels they need to recognize that they can make a difference – one sticker at a time.       

February 29, 2016 02:59
By Robyn Barberry


Responsibility and rewards: In praise of the chore chart


A former colleague and mother of six grown children recently posted an article on Facebook about the harms associated with sticker charts used to reward children for completing chores and behaving appropriately. The author, Erica Reischer, argues that the transaction of tangible treats (yes, even stickers) in exchange for pro-social behavior establishes an inappropriate “market” situation, which causes children to expect to be rewarded for behaviors that should offer intrinsic rewards or be habitual rather than voluntary.

Ironically, Patrick and I had just started using such a chart with Collin, who at the age of six, is now old enough to make more significant contributions to the running of our household and management of his school materials. Collin received the wooden magnetic Melissa and Doug chart for Christmas. It hangs outside of our kitchen. His tasks for the day are displayed on ever-changing wooden tiles on the left. The days of the week form columns to the right. When Collin accomplishes a task, he receives a wooden smiley-face magnet in the appropriate square. We were even able to add a few chores on blank tiles, such as “get uniform together.”

After the first week, I told Patrick that the chart was working. Collin would survey his list of chores after dinner and earn magnet after magnet for loading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, packing his lunch, and putting his shoes by the door. “New broom sweeps well,” Patrick murmured.

Two months later, we continue to see positive results with Collin. Sometimes he doesn’t even need to check the chart if he knows that it’s Sunday and he needs to put the trash by the curb or that he finished his other chores so he needed to take a shower and brush his teeth.

There are no rewards for earning all of his sticker magnets. It feels like Collin is treating it more like the to-do list I create for myself when I get to work each morning. Putting a magnet in each square is the completion of a necessary task, rather than a step toward a big prize. Considering that perspective, I think Erica Reischer would have a more favorable opinion of our chart.

One “task” that is always on his chart, which Reischer would probably condone, is “Show Respect.” It’s a big deal at St. Joan of Arc, along with responsibility and leadership. Together, they form the foundation for our school's behavior management system (PBIS) and associated Class Dojo program. I try to reinforce those values at home, and sometimes kids need a visual representation of such abstract, complicated concepts. So, if Collin loses points for talking during instruction at school, he can’t earn his respect sticker at home. The following day we pretty much always see an improvement in his demeanor at school and at home.

Accountability is an essential skill that children need to learn early on. But expecting them to participate in household chores without offering a visual or tactile system to track their performance may be asking too much until they are capable of more abstract thought. Yes, I want my children to understand that being a part of a family means making contributions, but our chore chart might just be the training wheels they need to recognize that they can make a difference – one sticker at a time.       

February 29, 2016 02:57
By Robyn Barberry

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