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School district strives to help parents in Raising Minds

by: Vern Uyetake, Elementary parents Melanii Lambert and Karen Rathje discuss their handouts during a “Raising Minds” session Tuesday at Lake Oswego High School.

More than 140 elementary parents have joined a new enrichment program with hopes that they can better influence their children's way of thinking at home.

The pilot series, 'Raising Minds,' began on Tuesday and spans four sessions in October. Enrollment is closed, though the program may be repeated next year if it's successful.

Superintendent Bill Korach created and teaches each two-hour session to parents with children who attend Lake Oswego School District elementary schools.

'I think we have something very powerful here, but you need to become a master of it,' Korach said at an information session. 'This isn't a sprint, this is a marathon … You're not going to leave here and go home and fix your kid.'

The curriculum places emphasis on problem-solving skills, thinking strategies and identification of teachable moments at home.

It also features some of the same principles Korach teaches in 'Scholar's Alliance,' a popular critical-thinking series offered to high school students each year.

'Elementary parents are in the perfect situation to work with their students' mindful development,' Korach said. 'They're parenting, solving problems and working with students thinking all the time.'

Korach hopes to give parents the tools to improve the way their kids think.

The basic principles of the program, Korach said, asks parents to role model as mindful thinkers and explicitly teach their children how to vary their perspective and understand concepts.

'Children have a biological predisposition to emulate what they see,' Korach said. 'And if (parents) learn how to teach explicitly, you get a double benefit.'

First, however, parents need to learn to recognize opportunities when they can influence their children. These 'teachable moments' are caused by some sort of inherent motivation - such as a reward or consequence - or an intrinsic interest, Korach said.

'I don't have to get them interested when I teach about flirting in Scholar's Alliance,' he told the crowd Tuesday. 'They're already interested.'

Parents gathered around tables in the Lake Oswego High School cafeteria, taking notes and discussing key topics within their groups.

Korach lectured to the group using handouts, an overhead projector and multi-media, including a clip from the film, 'The Fabulous Baker Boys.'

He asked each parent to write down their child's top three qualities and capabilities. Then, he asked them to write down the same thing from their child's perspective.

He encouraged parents to ask their children the same question at home. The exercise was intended to generate dialog between parent and child.

Hilary Chick joined the program so she could meet Korach and become acquainted with his philosophy of education and learning. She plans on picking up a few tools of the trade in the meantime.

'For some parents, talking to their kid comes innately,' said Chick, who has two children at Palisades Elementary School. 'Some of us need more guidance.'

A group of parents sitting at one table agreed that participation in 'Raising Minds' is essential to developing successful children in their high-achieving community.

'I have just always wanted to do a better job at being a parent,' said Mike Kehoe, who has children in fourth, seventh and ninth grades. 'They don't give you manuals when you have kids.'

Kehoe laughed as he recalled how his own parents gave him a bike, pushed him out the door and said, 'See you at dusk.'

A generation ago, an opportunity for parent academic involvement such as 'Raising Minds' didn't exist, he said.

'We sometimes try to get involved with everything they do to make them the best and brightest,' Kehoe said. 'It kind of scares me how much we do for our kids. It's hard to stop yourself.'