A friend sent me this photo of her daughter on her first day of preschool. Apparently, Jenni felt that the lightsaber was a perfectly appropriate accessory for preschool. I love that (in the words of a friend) "She looks like she could take on the world armed with nothing more than an education and a light saber. Confident, innocent, strong, and ready."
When I really think about it, I'm struck by the things we ask kids to do just as regular parts of growing up. Going to school, meeting new people, trying to fit into these increasingly complex social systems...it's all really tough stuff. How much more difficult must it be when a kid doesn't have good support systems at home or just isn't built for risk?
Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids (http://www.freerangekids.com) movement (which I've found pretty inspiring over the years) hinges on the idea that kids get brave (and smart and strong) by doing things that scare them, making them think hard, and push them to do what they thought they couldn't. So, in that spirit, I'm going to try something new with my own kids this fall: I'm going to get out of their way and let them figure stuff out. For years I've felt that I needed to be there after school (and I did- they were little kids) and that I needed to be present in the problem-solving.
Not anymore. Here's what I'm doing. I'm making sure they both have a house key and that they know how to manage the school bus. I'll leave a list of the things they need to do (homework, chores, etc) and after that? It's all on them. I'm pretty sure that an 11 year and a 13 year old can solve just about any problem that comes up--though they probably won't do it the way I would. I think that bravery might just be a thing they'll pick up along the way.
What else though? What can we do to help our students be brave in the face of changing expectations, the cafeteria, bullies, standardized tests, learning to read, algebra and school dances? How can we help them be ready for the the threats (real or imagined) that lurk at school? How can we make sure that all of our kids can use the power of the Force to protect themselves when things get tough?