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.

More Posts

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.

More Posts

Weekly Leader — June 19, 2015

Out_Of_Box2
If this is your first time seeing the Weekly Leader, scroll down and read all about it below the line. Then pop back up to the top for next week’s suggestions.

Weekly Leader for the second week in June.

Mastermind Monday

As a family, think of 25 different ways to raise money.

TED Talk Tuesday

A performance of “Mathemagic”

*Note — You may not always agree with the perspective of a TED Talk, but rather than shy away from it, use it as an opportunity to explain why you don’t agree.

What’s Up Wednesday

The four lunar eclipses of 2014/2015

Think Tank Thursday

Have everyone in the family tell a story from their own childhood (even kids can tell stories from when they were younger).

Famous Friday

Charlie Brannock

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.

More Posts

You Can Do It — Find A Pre-College Program

pre-college-student

This summer, my daughter (a rising high school junior) will be attending a summer music intensive pre-college program at a prominent school of the arts. It’s a three-week residential program, where she will get a taste of college life, and have the opportunity to take classes and private lessons with other rising juniors and seniors.

At the end of the three weeks, she will have earned three college credits, had a chance to collaborate with other kids who are passionate about music and experienced a small taste of life in music college. Plus, it’s a great addition to her high school resume because it shows passion, commitment and accomplishment (as with any college program, kids typically have to be accepted into these too).

To find the right programs for your kids, start by looking at your student’s top choices for college. If they have pre-college opportunities, it could be a chance for your student to network with school faculty and get a feel for what the school is really like. You can also Google “pre-college programs for [your child’s interest] .”

Consider also looking into programs that will strengthen a particular skill set your teen might need for her intended major. For example, if your daughter wants to be an interior designer, she will need a strong art portfolio. Consider finding a good summer pre-college art program. If you have a child who wants to be computer programmer, strong math skills might be important. Look for a summer math intensive at one of her top choice universities.

Counting the Cost

These programs can be pricey, but don’t let that discourage you. Many offer scholarships, and if you start planning early enough, kids can raise their own money. Crowd funding sites like Go Fund Me can help them raise money. They could also sell old clothes and other household items online or use income from a small business.

One way that my daughter raised money for her summer program was by doing henna tattoos. She also used crowd funding and received a partial scholarship.

Planning ahead can make every opportunity available to every kid who knows what they want!

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.

More Posts

Mini Experts Are Motivated To Learn

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-sailor-kid-looking-binoculars-against-blue-sky-background-image53320573

Every parent wants their kid to be motivated to learn, but we all know that school is not always so motivating. As an adult, I figured out that I love history, but there was something about the rote memorization of facts and dates and those dry text book chapters that made history one of my least favorite subjects in school.

School (the standard American way) can suck the motivation to learn out of most kids at one point or another. But when a person is really interested in something, even a dry textbook can become interesting.

One way to motivate our kids to learn is to be on the lookout for things that genuinely pique their interest. When we find something, we can help them dive in as deeply into as they want to go.

  • Make a trip to the library and let them pick books on the topic
  • Set up field trips to explore something in a hands-on way
  • Introduce them to experts on the topic
  • Watch documentaries about it together
  • Help them build collections that relate to their interest
  • Help them memorize a boat load of interesting facts about their topic

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.

More Posts

Weekly Leader — June 12, 2015

Out_Of_Box2
If this is your first time seeing the Weekly Leader, scroll down and read all about it below the line. Then pop back up to the top for next week’s suggestions.

Weekly Leader for the second week in June.

Mastermind Monday

Think about a few ethical dilemmas, such as “How would you handle it if a group of friends were making racist jokes?” or “What would you do if you found a wallet with cash in it?” Write them on strips of paper and pass them around at the dinner table. Have each person read their dilemma and talk about it.

TED Talk Tuesday

Science is for everyone, kids included

*Note — You may not always agree with the perspective of a TED Talk, but rather than shy away from it, use it as an opportunity to explain why you don’t agree.

What’s Up Wednesday

Water shortage in California

Think Tank Thursday

Make a list of all the things that you would like to do as a family before everyone leaves the nest.

Famous Friday

Margaret Knight

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.

More Posts

Intimate Relationships Are Motivating

mother_daughter_moment

Intimate Relationships don’t just happen, they have to be cultivated. As parents, sometimes we forget that just because we birthed these little humans, it doesn’t mean that they automatically click with us or think we are cool enough to be in their space or heed our words of advice.

Intimacy requires work.

Here’s the good news. If you do it right, and by right we mean actually developing an intimate relationship with your kiddo, you will open the portal to having a weighty voice in your child’s life. Intimate relationships motivate your child to want to obey your voice.

How do we accomplish this intimacy thing? Glad you asked.

First on the agenda is building trust. Trust comes from being honest with yourself and your kids. They need to see you behaving the way you tell them to behave. The old, “Do as I say and not as I do” adage will destroy trust in your relationship. Moral of the story – do as you say.

Intimate relationships between parents and kids motivate kids to want to please their parents. It’s the same concept as best friends. Teens don’t want to disappoint their BFFs. If the relationship is in place between parent and child, they won’t want to disappoint you either. Respect is birthed out of intimacy.

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.

More Posts

Weekly Leader — May 1, 2015

Out_Of_Box2
If this is your first time seeing the Weekly Leader, scroll down and read all about it below the line. Then pop back up to the top for next week’s suggestions.

Weekly Leader for the first week in May.

Mastermind Monday

Talk briefly about the difference between a chain and a franchise. Not sure yourself? Just ask Mr. Google!

TED Talk Tuesday

Underwater Astonishments

*Note — You may not always agree with the perspective of a TED Talk, but rather than shy away from it, use it as an opportunity to explain why you don’t agree.

What’s Up Wednesday

Riots in Baltimore

Think Tank Thursday

Friends are like vitamins — each one provides something different but essential. Have each family member talk about how their closest friends bring something unique to their life.

Famous Friday

Rosalind Franklin

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.

More Posts

Creative Is the New Intelligent

Creative

Creativity and imagination are the keys to the future. They will solve our energy crisis. They will continue to make our lives and work more powerful. If you had told me when I was a kid that I could stand on a street corner and talk on a phone to someone on the opposite side of the planet, I would have thought you were crazy.

Ever watch the Jetsons cartoon? I don’t know about you, but I didn’t expect to see their technology in my lifetime. I still doubt that I will ever replace my car with a flying mobile, but the Jetsonian flatscreen TVs are a part of our every day life. Video chat is also here. And although we don’t have personal robot maids who are part of the family, Honda’s Asimo robot can walk, talk and have basic human interactions. It will probably be a another lifetime before we can shrink our vehicles to a brief size as George Jetson could, but nanotechnology is a fast growing field that will surely make new and amazing things possible in years to come.

It is all the product of imagination and creativity, but he question for parents is this: “How do we help foster this in our kids?”

We would say that it starts with boredom. Author Nancy H. Blakely, said it much better than we could:

“Preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations. For in the end, that is all we have. If a thing cannot be imagined first — a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS — it cannot be. Life is bound by what we can envision.

I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom. It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves, the ones that long for risk and illumination and unspeakable beauty.

If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

– Nancy H. Blakey, author of a number of books, including Mudpies: Recipes for Invention;101 Alternatives to Television; Lotions, Potions and Slime; and Boredom Busters, all from Tricycle Press

Parents can certainly turn off the TV or limit time on social media and video games. We can create open space (physically and mentally) for our kids to wander through, but once we establish an atmosphere of boredom, we also have to provide the resources and the encouragement for kids to explore and create.

Here are a handful of posts to give you some ideas. Click through, and try a few new things to cultivate imagination in your home.

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.

More Posts

As A Girl Thinks, So Is She

AsAGirlThinks

Watch Your Thoughts, They Become Words; Watch Your Words, They Become Actions.

Multiple people have been credited for this quote and many forms of it, because it has been repeated by so many leaders.

Perhaps we don’t often consider our thoughts as being the seeds of our future, much less concern ourselves on a daily basis about what kind of self-talk is happening in our minds or the minds of our girls. But we should.

A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem, commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund found that, “7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way.”

So, 70% of our girls don’t believe in themselves. That belief system started with self-talk (her everyday thoughts), but overtime, it becomes her identity.

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.

More Posts