joe nathan

“Keep their minds and bodies engaged in wonder during the summer months when they are not attending school.” That’s what Julie Olson, director of Elementary Education for the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools recommended last week. She was one of 39 education leaders who responded to my request for suggestions about what parents could do to encourage continued learning during the summer. They described a combination of community, school and family activities that can produce a summer with happy memories and student growth.

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Here’s a suggestion for the summer. If you care about learning, teaching, schools or parenting, get a copy of “Teaching with Heart,” edited by educator Sam M. Intrator and writer Megan Scribner. The book has 90 brief, one-page essays by educators, explaining and describing a poem that has inspired them. The book contains some of the most majestic, memorable writing I’ve ever read.

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Fortunately legislators mostly listened to community leaders and students like Sam Petrov, Cherish Kovach, Kelly Charpentier-Berg and Aaliyah Hodge as they considered Minnesota’s pioneering Postsecondary Enrollment Options law. After months of debate, and on a bipartisan basis, legislators agreed with students and many community and business groups that families and students need more, and more up-to-date, information.

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Two things are clear about Minnesota’s charter public schools. Growing numbers of families are selecting these schools for their children. And, as someone told me many years ago, “when you’ve seen one charter, you’ve seen one charter” – as opposed to the observation, “when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” Because President Barack Obama proclaimed May 4-10 as National Charter School Week, this seems like a good time to look at what’s happening in this part of Minnesota’s public education system.

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Remarkably, as Minnesota families rightly are concerned about college costs, Minnesota legislators are debating whether to allow colleges and universities to inform families that they can save dollars by having high school students take courses on postsecondary campuses. The Minnesota House and Senate have taken different approaches, which they now need to reconcile.

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From stunning to sad, a 12-day trip to Japan has produced an array of emotions. The cherry blossoms are more beautiful and more numerous than I can describe. The people are extremely friendly. But none of the things I’ve done matched the power, or the mixture of emotions, of visiting Hiroshima’s Peace Park and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. That produced several lessons, some of which the museum’s creators may not have envisioned.

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“Simple Choices” is one of the wisest, most humble and helpful books for parents that I’ve read in a long time. It’s written by Lisa Graham Keegan, a nationally recognized educator and political leader who has had to deal with her father’s desertion of the family, discovery that she is carrying a genetic disorder and several other huge challenges. But with laughter and love, she has emerged as a kind, caring, positive parent. She has wonderful stories to tell and creative suggestions I’ve read nowhere else.

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