“We are most alive when our hearts are conscious of our treasures…” ~ Thornton Wilder

This is the gift–to hear and enJOY life’s opportunities every single day. Truly, there is something in every day and in every season to celebrate with thanksgiving as treasures along the journey…to be more aware of what we have, to appreciate again and again all the wonderful things money cannot buy (the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, a child’s laughter, a loving family, and more).

As we wrap up this school year, it’s important to take a moment to focus on things as though we are seeing them either for first time, or in my case as LME princiPAL, for the last time. With 34 years of educational opportunities, it is time to personally move to another phase of this journey called life.

Before I leave this fast-growth learning community in the most capable of hands, please allow a little poetic license to share some final pearls of pirate wisdom and TREASURES…

T = Take time to breathe, to try something new, and to be THANKFUL.  The most precious things in life are always right in front of you.  Trust and be amazed!

R = Remind yourself and others to relax, rejuvenate, rest, and reward.  Play is important for all ages, most especially when you need to recharge your battery and take in the abundance of life each day.

E = EnJOY the ride…the good and the not-so-good!  Expect adventures and entertain a few wild ideas to enhance this big, bold, grand, astonishingly beautiful world.  After all, it’s not the destination, but the journey along the way…

A = Always allow grace to shine forth…hold yourself and others to a standard of less perfection and more grace…every.single.day!

S = S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind, mindset, body, heart, and soul to uncomfortable levels.  We often find new possibilities, answers, and options just outside our comfort zone!

U = Understand and forgive others even when they do not deserve it; this is usually when they need your understanding and forgiveness the most…

R = Respect yourself first; respecting others will be easier then.

E = Entertain new opportunities by saying YES…engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment start with each of us!

S = Savor the simple, profound, JOYful moments; these will become the milestones to your personal life story.

EnJOYAll these TREASURES are present in the many JOYs of my educational journey at LME.  One of the surest and most encompassing JOYs comes from the great works and excellence of others around me.  While some may not appreciate the idea of thriving on others’ successes, it is more than enough to have the honor and privilege of being a part of something profoundly extraordinary because I chose the role of catalyst in the process.  We can all be a ladder, a lamp, or even a lifeboat on this journey…here’s hoping your heart is always conscious of your TREASURES; enJOY the journey!

Note:  VanAmGram will become a personal blog on July 1, 2016 and will no longer be associated with LaRue Miller Elementary.


Sprinkles and other teachable things…

Please don’t tell my own children, but yes, they continue to teach me so much more than I’ve ever taught them; this goes for my students at LME as well. They engage, enlighten, inspire, and empower me daily. I’ve gathered a few insights to share the smart, funny, innocent, and perfectly sensible things reminding how simple everything really is in this life…

Giggles grow dendrites:  Even before we can talk, we can laugh.  We chuckle around 4 months of age in response to those around us.  Laughter brings a human connection and young children laugh more than adults because of their many social interactions; laughter literally grows the brain.  Sharing a great belly laugh is, after all, one of life’s greatest JOYs, so giggle often.

Practice not perfection:  There are 10 tricky things to try to master as a young child:  hula-hooping, using chopsticks, doing a cartwheel, catching a snowflake on your tongue, skipping stones, hanging a spoon off your nose, doing a yo-yo trick, making a paper airplane, and whistling.  Which ones have you done lately?  Which ones have you taught lately?

Ask WHY until you understand:  You probably won’t be surprised to learn that young children ask an average 350 questions per day.  Asking WHY digs deeper and challenges conventional wisdom to reveal true reasons and alternative solutions.  Never be afraid to ask WHY.

Look at things upside down:  Anything is possible to a child because they see things we can’t and look for things we don’t.  They soak up new information and adapt quickly and cleverly to changing situations.  Hang on a jungle gym and get a new perspective.

Sign your name BIG:  A child is her own champion; her focus is on all the things she does well, like learning to sign her name.  Believing you can makes all the difference in the world because young children are willing to try just about anything.  Be proud of the name and sign it BIG!

A hug goes a long way:  Little ones love us just as we are, not as we should be.  They are quick to forgive, move on, and don’t tally the mistakes.  Naturally empathetic, kids respond quickly to someone in need and understand how the smallest gesture mathkes a big impact.  Just like Winnie-The-Pooh noted, “Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

If you’re fortunate to be in this business of school or to have young children at home, continue to find ways to appreciate their infinite fresh wisdom.  If not, here’s hoping you choose to turn off your devices the next time you are sitting on a park bench and tune in to the conversations around you on the playground…you might just pick up a few pointers!  Oh, and always ask for more sprinkles!

Readers are Leaders…

imgresReaders are leaders; it’s a known fact.  A language-rich and print-rich environment at school and at home are instrumental in building better readers, writers, listeners, and thinkers.  The best way to promote strong reading skills, share a love of books, and just spend time together (as a model reader) occurs during Read-Alouds or Story Time.  Want to spend quality time with your child building reading skills and teaching a love of books?  Here are some simple suggestions:

  1. Read regularly – try to read together daily, perhaps at bedtime (what I called rocker time when my girls were little).  Read-alouds can also be done on the way to soccer practice or while supper is cooking.
  2. Take turns choosing books together – old favorites are fun but learn to branch out some into new genres such as poetry, non-fiction, or biographies.
  3. Let the child participate and be playful – use different voices for different characters or substitute the child’s name for the main character along with family member names for other characters.  Ask your child to turn pages or finish rhyming words in sentences for you.

The joy of reading is cultivated just like your favorite flower or herb in the garden.  Reading is the foundation and heart of everything we do at school; reading sets expectations for all future academic success in all other areas.  We are blessed and so grateful to the many volunteers who spend valuable time in our classrooms as guest readers and leaders, especially our Rocking Reader community members!  They know and show how readers are leaders throughout life!  So, what will you read with a child today? :-)

How will you STOP in 2016?

HNY2A group of fifth grade writers meet monthly with me to ponder life, share ideas, and enJOY general conversation about all manner of topics.  We sat down before the holiday break to reflect on our new resolutions, one word goals, and more…our chance to start fresh, leave the past behind, and move forward in a positive way.  The interesting consensus of the group during this discussion was how a new year takes great courage, strong conviction, and a growth mindset to move forward because the best is yet to come!

During the course of our conversation, we also noted how important it is to STOP doing things no longer in our best interest.  Here are a few of their thoughts to STOP in 2016:

1.  Stop telling everyone everything on social media.  Leave some things to chance and imagination.

2.  Stop comparing yourself to others and worrying about what others think.  March to your own drummer and the positive path you create.

3.  Stop focusing on self and more on others; help others and be good to each other…kindness matters!

4.  Stop making everything a competition in life.  Compete with your best self and not with others.  Make your choices, accept responsibly, and deal with the consequences (good and bad) of your choices.

5.  Stop being like others; own who you are, where you are, and tell YOUR story in a caring manner.  There is only one “YOUnique” you…  :-)

6.  Stop fearing failure; no one has it all figured out because nothing in life is perfect, especially on the first time.  Failures bring powerful clarity and change in the most positive way; embrace failure to find personal success.

HNY2016I think they’re on to something amazing as we close out 2015 and move boldly forward in 2016 at LME!  Here’s hoping you create your own STOP list as the old year washes away and the new year begins.  Happy New Year!

May you always have enough…

As we gathered together with family and friends to share in thankful celebration this past week, these words of my Granny B. reminded me of the real blessings in life:

May you always have enough…

  • happiness to keep you sweet,busyhands
  • trials to keep you strong,
  • sorrows to keep you human,
  • hope to keep you JOYful,
  • failure to keep you humble,
  • success to make you eager,
  • friends to give you comfort,
  • wealth to meet your needs,
  • enthusiasm to look for tomorrow,
  • faith to banish worry, and
  • determination to make each day better than before! 

It is important to teach our children to share and embrace the gratitudes of daily life (along with the necessary coping skills to deal with life too).  Allowing their “busy hands” to assist, to explore, and to share in the work builds strong character traits (like trust, respect, responsibility, service and more).

Thanks for walking the journey with us; thanks for sharing your most valuable blessing, your child, with us!  It’s the start of the holiday season but may we always remember to focus on our priorities and remember we always have enough…

Sharing the Bread…

It’s no secret Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; the students are always commenting about it.  :-)  While milling through the bookstore recently, I came across a new gem to add to my ever-growing collection of Thanksgiving stories to feast upon:  Sharing the Bread…An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story.  Written by Pat Zietolow Miller and Jill McElmurry, this heartwarming story shares how an American 19th Century family prepares a delicious feast together, one not very different from what we eat today.

th“Mama, fetch the cooking pot.  Fetch our turkey-cooking pot..  Big and old and black and squat.  Mama, fetch the pot…”

“Grandma, bake your pumpkin pie.  Whip the topping light and high.  High enough to reach the sky.  Grandma, bake the pie…”

Each family member contributes to the growing meal, sharing their thanks while gratefully giving their service throughout the day.  Written in rhyme and filled with holiday spirit, it’s truly a mouthwatering read-aloud for any family to share.  Here’s hoping you find your treasured family traditions as the holidays begin once again!

Note:  Speaking of feasts, our annual LME Thanksgiving Feast is set for Wednesday, November 18th in our cafe during all lunches.  Please make your reservation now for this fun event. 


We have a strong group of student leaders at LME this year and today was most definitely a beautiful indication of this observation in action!  The fourth Wednesday of September this year marked the 25th anniversary of a global day of prayer started in 1990 with a group of ten students leading prayer around a school flagpole.   See You At The Pole (SYATP) is simply a student-led prayer rally before school outside the campus flagpole.

SeeYouAtPoleThe student-initiated, student-organized, student-led event at LME this morning lifted up friends, families, educators, schools, community members, and our nation in prayer.  From the beautiful gathering music and sounds of students singing to the power of joining hands in unison throughout the event, hearts and souls were united.  Special thanks to these student leaders, their supportive parents, and to all who chose to participate today…such a powerful way to start the first day of Autumn at LME this year! :-)