When I first started teaching and someone would ask what I did for a living, I told them I taught future teachers, doctors, writers, lawyers, firemen, mothers, grandfathers, even morticians. But more than anything else,
dreamers and stand-up comedians. In other words—First Graders.

No two days were never the same. I could be pulling my hair out one minute and belly-laughing the next. One colleague described the days as trying to keep a litter of puppies corralled before something terrible happened.

adorable animal baby basket

black and brown short haired puppy in cup

playing hidden backyard small animal

There was never a dull, or still, moment.

The love for reading and writing was the golden nugget I wanted them to find. I wanted them to LOVE it. These life skills would pave the way for learning and understanding their world and themselves, not to mention the joy found along the way.

Nothing was more electric than hearing the buzz of young readers sprawled out with stacks of books beside them. They were growing and I could hear it. Some days it was magical.

One six year old captured the wonder in her own words . . .


Writing was not the favorite activity for many of these young learners. I’m not proud to say that when it was time for writing, suddenly half the class needed the bathroom pass. I had to work to make these lessons manageable, purposeful and fun.

One day I had them design and write a card for me. I promised to write back.

“This will be so fun!” I cheered, practically standing on my head. “You don’t have to write much, but you must write with heart.”

My kids knew what heart meant because I packaged everything we did with heart. We pledged to work hard. To care. One goal was to get our feelings to come through so when we shared our work, others would feel too. Heart mattered.

Here are a few of the cards . . .


               (I had been sick and had just returned to school after a long absence. Apparently, I was just watching TV all day with a bushel load of popcorn.)


(Well, “Hell-o” to you, too!)


(This dog lover was quick to tell me it was fun but she was allergic to it.)


(I never did get the trophy, but I guess it’s the thought that counts.)

It was easy to embrace their hearts but as a teacher I also had to pull the weeds. In other words, I had to pay attention to their mistakes. The trick was to correct these budding writers without bruising their hearts. And the hearts of young children (and the not so young) can be very fragile.

I knew repeating certain mistakes would slow their growth as writers, just like weeds choking roots ready to sprout. I spent many lessons pulling weeds while trying to leave the heart intact, which, I might add, takes some art.


close up of tree against sky

This may be a stretch, but isn’t that what we need to do to help children grow? Let  them dream while keeping reality in view. Pull the weeds while celebrating the flower.

Because you really can’t jump off the roof and fly.

boy child clouds kid

And hoping any harder to be a dinosaur when you grow up—well, probably not going to happen.

Contrary to public opinion, we can’t do it all or be all.

And that’s okay.

Often times, what we are is enough, as long as we have heart.

Here are two favorites that encourage a growing mind-set when life isn’t what we expected or hoped for.



A timeless read that  belongs on every parent’s bookshelf.

IDEA ALERT: Package it up with an Amaryllis bulb kit that will require patient waiting during the winter months. A good reminder for all ages that in time, all good things come.



Since I love giraffes and could never win a dance contest, this is a good one to share about doing things less than perfect and in your own way. I like reminding my grandkids about Gerald when I start moving to the music . . . What do you mean, I can’t dance! Remember Gerald?

There are oodles and oodles of books that will help pull the weeds without hurting the flower . . .

Here’s a place to start:


What books with an extra dose of heart-care have you read to your child?



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