The Congressional Award

A Secret Weapon for Rising Stars

congressional award, amazing kids, secret weapon

Most of us have heard of the Eagle Scout Award through the Boy Scouts. But what about the Congressional Award? If that one is unfamiliar to you, you’re not alone. Keep reading because this prestigious award is not only a bright gold star on any student’s resume, but the activities they do to earn it are life changing.

The Congressional Award was established by the United States Congress in 1979 to recognize initiative, service and achievement in young people. It is a non-competitive program open to all 14-23 year olds (kids can register at 13 ½ and start working on it at 14).

I first learned about the Congressional Award when my son was about to graduate from high school. By then, Chase had so much on his plate that it didn’t seem possible to add one more thing – or so I thought at that time. Looking back, that was really foolish on my part.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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The Secret to Raising an Accomplished Kid

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What will your child accomplish this year? A year can hold a multitude of achievements, but there is a secret to raising an accomplished kid that many people overlook. 

Recently I was talking to an admissions officer at one of my daughter’s top choice colleges, and after discussing some of the highlights of her resume, the admissions officer asked, “Are we talking about one student?” She was amazed that one student could have “so many” accomplishments. But to be perfectly honest, I was amazed at her amazement.

My 16 year old is focused, and she works hard at pursuing her passion. But she has not done anything truly extraordinary. She has not done anything that any motivated 16 year old couldn’t do.

She wasn’t a semifinalist in the prestigious Intel Science Competition while living in a homeless shelter like Long Island high school student Samantha Garvey. She didn’t receive a $1 million celebrity investment in an app she had written like 17 year old tech wizard Nick D’Aliosio did. She didn’t gather over 170,000 signatures on a petition to insist that a woman should moderate one of the presidential debates like three girls her age from New Jersey did. And she is certainly not a Nobel Prize laureate like young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

The way I see it, this admissions officer’s statement was not actually a commentary on my child’s “exceptional achievements” but rather an indictment of society’s woefully low expectations.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Are You Wasting Your Time With Sports And Music?

Children_playing_soccer

Learning to play an instrument can do great things for brain development, and playing a sport can improve physical fitness, help kids learn discipline, sportsmanship and team work. But none of it does much good if kids are not actively engaged and willing to practice or train.

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” There is something to be said for the quality of practice, but this presents an added challenge to parents. Not only do we have to motivate our kids to spend part of their day rehearsing music or training for a sport, but we have to make sure they are doing it well enough to grow.

A few years ago, a controversial book hit the New York Times Best Sellers List. It was called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and in it, author Amy Chua recounted stories about locking her daughter out in the cold and threatening to burn her child’s stuffed animals if she didn’t spend hours practicing piano. Is it any wonder that by the end of the book, the daughter hated her mom?

It was clear that Chua wanted what she thought was the best for her children, and she believed that her methods were a necessary means to an end, but she missed the most important part of motivation — desire. Her kids did not want to be musical prodigies — she wanted that for them.

Our kids were not born to fulfill our own dreams; they were not put on this earth to make us look good, and their destiny is not to fulfill our hopes for them. They each have their own purpose, and when it comes to sports and music, we are only wasting our time (and theirs) if we strong arm them into doing what we want, as opposed to what they want.

What Is The Goal?

On the flip side, sometimes we have to coach our kids to have a bigger picture mindset when it comes to extra curricular activities. I know many kids who based their entire childhood and adolescence on a sport or music with no actual plans for what comes next.

Let’s take a boy for example who loved swimming. He joined the swim team and went to practice five days a week. He swam all through middle and high school, and even got a scholarship to swim in college.

He randomly picked a business major in college, and although he got decent grades, he wasn’t really there for academics. He was there to swim. But then one day, he graduated. Swimming was over. Life had to start. But he had not planned for that, so he moved back home and began looking for a job. He had no idea what he really wanted to do with his life because up until that point, his whole world had been about swimming. He accepted a job at a bank to make money, but he didn’t necessarily like it — he tolerated it. At 25, he felt lost. He got up and went to work everyday, but inside, he felt unfulfilled.

He had a girlfriend and figured they would eventually get married. He would buy a house and raise a family, and he would be relatively happy, in spite of a quiet restlessness in his spirit. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he wanted to more. He wanted to do something meaningful. He wanted to make a difference, but he had no idea how. And once there was a mortgage to pay and a family to support, he realized he would have to put those thoughts aside. Maybe one day he would go back to school, he told himself.

He is not much different than the girl who spent her childhood and adolescence playing the flute. She practiced everyday. She played in the school orchestra and the community youth orchestra. She won all sorts of awards for her music. She enjoyed it, but she didn’t give much thought to what she will do after school because her focus was always on the next concert or the next competition.

When it was time to think about college, she knew that her music resume will help her get scholarships, but wasn’t sure that she necessarily wanted to major in music, and she didn’t think she wanted to attend a music conservatory. She got accepted to a good liberal arts school, and of course, she joined their orchestra. She started out as a music major, but deep down, she was growing tired of just playing the flute. It was something that she was always good at, and she like it well enough growing up, but she didn’t want her whole life to be about the flute.

The problem was that she didn’t know what she did want. She thought maybe she would try psychology, so she took a bunch of psych classes, but it didn’t seem like a good fit. She spent a semester taking classes to fulfill her general education requirements, while she tried to figure it all out. The next semester she thought maybe she would want to go to law school, so she enrolled in political science classes. But soon she realized that this isn’t what it either.

By the end of her junior year, she had yet to declare a major, and she realized that would  have to stay for at least another year to graduate. Her scholarship money wouldn’t stretch another year, so she would have to take out more student loans, but she still had no clue what she wanted to do.

This is both an expensive and a time consuming way to find yourself! But it’s a pretty common scenario.

Sports and music are enormously valuable, and for some kids, they can be a great avenue to college scholarships. Some kids will even want to pursue a career in a sports or music related field. I have a 15-year-old nephew who is a great athlete. His parents have been helping him groom for the pro sports world his entire life. Not because it’s what they wanted — because it’s what he wanted. Even as a little boy, Steven was fascinated with sports. He memorized all sorts of players and their stats. I have no doubt that Steven will go into a sports-related career.

My own daughter is a musician. She is passionate about music. She’s been an opera singer for six years and has appeared in ten operas (three youth operas and seven professional operas). She plays four instruments, loves musical theatre, studies theory in her free time, and writes her own music. She and her friend just finished recording their first professional single. She fully intends to go to music school after high school, and she is totally committed to devoting her life to music.

Not every kid who plays sports or music has to be willing to devote their life to it, but before we let our kids throw their entire childhood into a sport or an instrument, we have to make sure they have a bigger plan for their life. The plan can include sports and music, but only as part of the bigger picture. We do our kids no justice when we allow them to hyper focus on an extra curricular activity without helping them find a sense of purpose.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Social Media: A Window to Our Teen’s World

SocialMedia

The social landscape of today looks very different than when we were kids, largely because of social media.

Our kids are native to the digital world, and no matter how tech savvy you may be, if you’ve ever stuck your finger in a hole and swung it around a circle to dial a phone number, you are an immigrant to this land. As immigrant parents of native children, we have to work overtime to learn the language and understand the culture.

On one hand, technology offers our kids great opportunities, but the dark underbelly of cyberspace is subtle and unpredictable, and we have to wisely guard its borders as our children’s allies and mentors – not as prison guards.

Some parents take the ostrich approach – head in the sand means there’s nothing to worry about. Other parents go militant, banning what they don’t understand. Still others do the helicopter, hovering anxiously, hoping to remove any threats before they do damage.

But in spite of its challenges, social media offers a unique opportunity that parents of earlier generations didn’t have. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and all of their digital counterparts are a window into our teens’ social world. They allow us to see them as their friends see them, and as they want their friends to see them. Social media can help us discern what our kids value and what their friends’ value, and it can open discussions about how they (and their friends) are presenting themselves to the world.

It all starts by knowing how they are using social media and then carefully talking to them, remembering our goal is to mentor, not to criticize or condemn them or their friends.

Find opportunities to discuss friendship. Right before bed can be a good time (kids are often curiously chatty at the end of the day). Ask them to think about what qualities they want in a friend.

Friends should inspire each other to be better. Ask your child how his friends do that and how he inspires his friends to be smarter, stronger or more creative. Friends should be good listeners and offer wise advice. For a teen, sometimes the best advice a friend can give is to talk to your parents.

Friends should also offer strength — two are better than one and a three-corded strand is not easily broken. Discuss options for helping a friend who is being picked on.

If you spot any red flags, either on social media or through conversation, confront it with the sandwich technique (praise – critique – praise). Open with something genuinely praiseworthy. Then move gently into your concern. Whenever possible, use questions to help kids discover truth for themselves. End with something positive.

Helping our kids find healthy friendships now will pay enormous dividends in their future.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Suggested Reading For Kids of Every Age

library

This week we have been talking about the great benefits of reading aloud to our kiddos. If you missed any of these posts, head back to Day 1 and scroll to the bottom for a complete list! To wrap it up, I thought you might want some ideas to jumpstart your read aloud library.

What to Read?

Regardless of their age, look for great stories. Look for stories that are as enjoyable to you as they are to your kids.

E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan said, “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth…Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words and they backhand them across the net.”

That being said, keep the bar high. Choose books with rich vocabulary and descriptions that paint a vivid picture. It takes time for kids to see that “movie” in their mind as they listen or read a story, but the better the story, the more likely that skill will come.

Got wiggly kids? Grab some blank paper and markers, and let them draw as you read. The drawing will occupy their right brain and free up the left brain to listen to the story.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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The Big Payoff of Reading Aloud to Kids

ReadingAloud

Out of all the different ways that we can help our kids succeed in school, the number one thing that parents can do requires nothing more than a free library card and time. We can read to them.

In 1983, the U.S. Department of Education was concerned about low academic performance scores, so they funded a Commission on Reading who spent two years combing through thousands of research reports conducted over the previous twenty-five years, and in 1985 they published their findings in a report titled Becoming a Nation of Readers. Amidst all of their digging, they discovered that reading out loud to kids is the number one most important thing we can do to help our kids become successful learners.

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children,” the report said. “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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You CAN Add More Time to Your Day

Add_Time_To_Your_Day

Everything we do requires a choice. We make choices when we wake up, eat food, get dressed, answer the phone — it’s all a choice. Although our choices are not always contemplated or obvious, they are choices nonetheless. And if we don’t choose our tasks and time deliberately, we can unknowingly allow important things to slip through the cracks.

We often hear people say they wish they had more hours in a day. Well, the experts say that for every one minute you spend planning, you will gain ten in execution. WOW! Over time, those minutes add up. You can do the math. So now the question is – Are we going to take the time to plan, and if so, how do we plan?

Start With the End Result in Mind

Time management is about starting with the end result in mind, and then working backward to achieve our goals. That’s really what this is about — setting goals and then figuring out our priorities. If we don’t do this, life just seems to happen to us, and years slip past us without any real significant achievements to speak of.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Aim Kids For Success With Project Management Skills

Aim_For_Success

The corporate and the academic worlds are moving toward a more project-based environment. So as our kids grow up, they’re going to need strong project management skills, and we can begin teaching them some of the basics by showing them how to look at their to do list to find mini projects: papers for school, putting together a vendor booth for their small business, planning a birthday party.

What Has to Be Done?

  • Teach kids to ask, “What exactly needs to be done?”
  • They should be clear and concise because being vague clouds vision.
  • Then they should define any related goals and be specific.

My fifteen year old has a successful henna tattoo business, and she gets a good amount of business from booths at various fairs and events around town. For these booths, she has to have a table with good signage. She needs pictures of her work, brochures, business cards and pricing information. Her goal is obviously to do tattoos at the event and make money, but it’s also to network for future business. That means she has to provide information on weddings, pregnancy belly tattoos and home parties (which tend to bring in good money). Her goal is to leave an event with at least three bookings — one to replace that day’s event and two to grow her business.

When our kids are defining their goals and tasks, they need to think about what they want the end result to look like.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Help Your Kids Find a Business Idea

Business Ideas for Kids

Most parents love the idea of their kids making their own money, and who wouldn’t want their kids to gain the life skills that come from running a business? But the first obstacle that most families face is coming up with a business idea.

This Saturday we’re kicking off a radio series on this very topic. Our guest is Certified Public Accountant Carol Topp who wrote a curriculum for families called Micro Business For Teens. We launched this series with a newspaper column about preparing kids for the real world. Speaking of which, if you haven’t already joined the group by the same name, head over there now and jump in on the conversation.

Start With What They Love

The first step in helping kids find a business is figuring out what they enjoy and what they’re good at. Our kids knit and spin their own yarn. So for a season, they made some money selling knitted items. In fact, one summer my daughter raised $300 making and selling knitted owls.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Coaches, Role Models & Mentors

coaches role models mentors

Back to school also means back to extra curricular, and with these come new relationships, tighter schedules and more commitments. Knowing that your little chicklette is going to be spending a ton of time with a new adult, have you ever considered interviewing them? You know, checking them out to see if they’re a good fit.

Would you hand off your precious offspring to a complete stranger for hours on end? Sometimes we do. They’re called coaches, role models and mentors.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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