Did you know that one of the smartest things we can do is to be thankful? Neuroscientists have proven that an ounce of gratitude can lead to clearer thinking, better sleeping, less stress, and smarter decision-making. The release of positive neurotransmitters in our brains, as a result of choosing to think gratefully, is remarkable. Like so many great things in life, choosing to be grateful is as simple as thinking about it. Asking our brains to recall people, places, things, and ideas that we are thankful for will release chemicals in our brains that will improve our well-being immediately. There is power in gratitude and it is only a thought away.
Stop! Think about something you are grateful for. Did you sense the sensation of joy, happiness, and well-being? This is the juice that satisfied and successful people live on. Unfortunately, the same is true if we think of the negative things in life. These thoughts breed distraught. It’s a choice. Choose wellness.
It’s sure easy to grumble and complain about the challenges and obstacles of the day. When I find myself slipping down the slippery slope of self-pity, a simple reminder about my faith, my family, and the joy of getting to be Mr. B can stop me in my tracks and get me back to a positive frame of mind. What I have learned about this slippery slope is that sometimes I have to consciously choose to stop the slide and force my brain to consider a more positive path. Being grateful is an easy way to remind ourselves that our lives are filled with wonderful people, opportunities, and a place to live.
Practicing Gratitude What are you thankful for: WRITE IT – READ IT – SAY IT!
Heart: Have a family meal and share what you are grateful for in each other.
Mind: Write a thank you note to someone.
Body: Donate clothing items to Coats for Kids or food items to Loaves and Fishes.
Soul: Think about the time, talents, and treasures you have to give away.
“Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings”. – William Arthur Ward
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
By teaching kids how they’re smart, we teach them to develop their thinking skills. We call them habits of mind. What are my habits? What are the things I’m going to get good at because I’m going to practice? These personal and intellectual character traits are what makes us smart, happy, and successful. They are the mental frameworks which all of our knowledge and skills sit upon.
One of our primary focuses at Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) is teaching kids to think about what’s important, so they’ll act on it. When we act on things that are important, we create habits. When we create habits, it becomes our character. Our character becomes our destiny. For us, it’s all about developing thought processes; developing smart, intelligent, thinking. Thinking triggers action and the cycle begins again — habits, character, and destiny.
How we teach Habits of Mind at Almond Acres
We use a variety of tools — thinking tools — to help us teach our kids how to think and develop their thinking skills. The first is terrific. It’s an acronym TRRFC that includes these citizenship traits: Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair, and Caring. These citizenship traits involve key principles that grow strong citizens. By thinking in these terms and modeling these behaviors — you are terrific. You’re being a better version of yourself.
We encourage and ascribe to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This is a very well-researched and proven approach to help people become better versions of themselves. The Seven Habits are shared, encouraged, and expected in our school on a daily basis.
Our kids grow to know each of the seven habits that also develop into an Almond Acres leadership system. It’s our way for kids to be leaders in their classroom, the school, our community, or at home.
An Almond Acres alum shared this feedback about their time at our middle school,
Leadership gives every human confidence. We expect all of our kids to experience leadership roles whether they stem from an official leadership group or they are a leader in their classroom. Our students glean leadership opportunities every day by being the light monitor, or the person who opens the door when somebody knocks. Our student leaders might direct a guest or act as an ambassador to the school and give tours to prospective families.
There are tons of different jobs to promote leadership in every classroom, and we believe there’s a leader in every student. We try to provide every one of our K-8 students with opportunities to be empowered.
Students who are confident citizens is another way to describe what’s at the core of our school mission — to grow great kids! We holistically celebrate each unique learner — heart, mind, body, and soul. Get to know Almond Acres. We’re enrolling tuition-free K-8 today!
About Almond Acres
Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. The school is located in Paso Robles and is open to all students in all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul. We grow great kids!
Being dependable, honoring commitments, keeping promises, accepting your strengths and struggles, and accepting natural and logical consequences – these are the habits that make us responsible people.
When we can use our abilities to respond to the challenges in life, we take control with confidence. When we tell our children to be the best version of themselves, we encourage response-ability. Helping our children to understand that they do have the ability to respond to so many aspects of their young life is truly capacity building and a powerful enabling of personal efficacy.
Here are 5 responsibility building tips from a mother of eight children:
Model it: do your best to be on time, clean up after yourself, do what you say, and say what you do.
Assign it gradually: scaffold age-appropriate chores and activities within your family.
Let them observe what happens if someone isn’t responsible: strategically stop doing something that they expect you to do just so that they can experience how responsible adults usually are.
Play the scenario game: write 10-20 typical scenarios regarding opportunities to be responsible
No bail-outs: let your child face the natural and logical consequences of irresponsible behavior.
We can also practice responsibility the AACA way:
Heart – approach a friend who may be struggling.
Mind – work hard to complete assignments with accuracy.
Body – tidy the space you trace.
Soul – think twice to speak nice.
Inspiring Quotes About Responsibility
“If you mess up, ‘fess up.” – Author Unknown
“Never point a finger where you never lent a hand.” – Robert Brault
“Quit making excuses. Putting it off. Complaining about it. Dreaming about it. Whining about it. Crying about it. Believing you can’t. Worrying if you can. Waiting until you are older. Make a plan & just do it.” – Nike
“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.”
Dr. Stephen R. Covey
We all use tools to help us throughout our day. The condition and quality of those tools are essential to how we perform: a sushi chef requires sharp knives for the perfect slice, a painter washes and dries his brushes so they may be used again, and a potter keeps unused clay moist so it is easy to work with. Caring for our tools makes us better at what we do. In our everyday lives, we also rely on tools to perform at our best: our hearts, minds, and bodies.
Built into our philosophy at Almond Acres’ is the mission to grow children’s hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. Along with that growth, we teach our students that it’s important to balance work with rest and renewal. Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw is all about finding balance.
Sharpen the Saw
You probably know what it feels like to “have a dull saw.” It may show up as exhaustion or disinterest. It may feel like a 3rd cup of coffee to get going for the day. For kids, it may be that feeling right before bedtime, when they’ve hit the wall and even going to bed sounds impossible. It feels like being “hangry” (angry because you are hungry) just before dinner because you missed lunch. In short, it’s no fun.
If we continually seek improvement without caring for ourselves, we will experience burnout—our saws will dull. And without a sharp saw, we can’t continue to grow and be at our best.
How Do We Do It?
Rest and relaxation aren’t all about sitting on the sofa to watch tv (although, if that is rejuvenating to you, do it!). We have to pay attention to our whole selves. Here are some examples of activities that renew us as we seek balance:
Heart: “Carefree timelessness” in meaningful social connections with family, friends, and community members are revitalizing. Laughing with a friend and having fun is a great way to strengthen your heart.
Mind: Reading great books, journaling, and engaging in puzzling activities stimulates your brain and sharpens your focus. Learning is one way to take care of your brain!
Body: A healthy dose of sleep, diet, and exercise. Are you moving your body every day? Have you filled up on nourishing food? Are you getting adequate sleep? No one can keep moving on an empty tank.
Soul: Enter the “classroom of silence”. Expand your spiritual self through prayer, meditation, art, music, or spending time in nature. Any activity that fills your cup is rejuvenating to your soul.
As we renew each part of ourselves, we leave room for growth and change. We increase our capacity, our resilience in the face of challenge, and our ability to give. Self-care is not selfish!
Sharpening the saw for children might look different from an adult. It might mean learning to rest after a busy day at school by relaxing with a good book or painting. Or maybe your child balances a passion for video games with breaks outside to move his body and breathe fresh air. Finding balance is deeply personal and how we do that will change as we grow.
In a world that teaches us that we must constantly be moving and doing, Almond Acres aims to help students seek balance. We model rest and recharging so that we can be at our best, everyday. How do you sharpen your saw? How do you help your children sharpen their saws?
Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students from all communities, AACA is located in Paso Robles. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!
It just takes an ounce of courage to be a better version of ourselves and live life more fully. Courage is that extra step just outside of comfort that leads us to a more fulfilling life and unexpected victories. Courage builds character, stretches capacity, and changes lives. Expressing confidence in our children and helping them to understand that risk and failure are essential to success motivates personal development and defeats fear.
Look for opportunities to celebrate courage. Spotlight characters from books and movies who act courageously. Most importantly, affirm your child when he/she uses an ounce of courage and chooses to do the next right thing even when it is scary. The American spirit has always relied on courageous thinkers, adventurers, and entrepreneurs. Our children are the next generation of great Americans as long as we encourage them. As the Duke (John Wayne) used to say, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
Help Your Child Develop Courage
Help your child develop a courageous character by practicing the following ideas:
Heart – respectfully introduce yourself to a new acquaintance.
Mind – attempt a more difficult book or math problem.
Body – try a new sport or hobby.
Soul – discuss dreams and aspirations about the future and what courageous acts it takes to achieve those dreams!
“Trust the still, small voice that says, ‘this might work and I’ll try it.’” – Diane Mariechild
Doing the next right thing is simply an act of courage. One of the most successful parenting questions I have asked my children has been, “What is the next right thing to do?” In almost every case my child knew the answer and acted accordingly. If there was uncertainty, I simply asked another question to guide the child toward actions that promote integrity and citizenship. If discipline is really about learning, then asking meaningful questions is a powerful tactic. The more our children come up with the answers on their own, the greater the thinking power we discipline into them. The next time you want to give your child an answer, stop and ask them the question instead.
Caring is the constant time and energy we put into our relationships, self, and stuff. Ultimately, our care expresses our love and develops the deep relationships we share. As we remind ourselves and our children what caring is, make it simple. Help them to see that the littlest gestures, the frequent efforts, the constant affirmations – these are the caring episodes of life that make a difference and provide the life and love that nurtures gratitude in our hearts and willingness in our days to reach out to make our home, school, and community a more pleasant place to live.
Heart – reach out to a friend with a smile and a helping hand.
Mind – spend extra time practicing academic skills.
Body – give/get 8 hugs a day!
Soul – think about the talents you share with others.
“A caring person in your life is like a heartbeat. A heartbeat isn’t visible, but silently supports your life.” – Unknown Author
“Some people care too much; I think it’s called love.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh