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New Year, New Goals

While you're stocking up on back-to-school supplies, take some time out to help your child think and dream about his future.

By Amanda Wheat | August 14 , 2007
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Visit legacyproject.org to learn more about the Legacy Project.
Visit legacyproject.org to learn more about the Legacy Project.

The exciting, intimidating start of the school year is an ideal time to talk with your child about goals for the future. Susan Bosak's Legacy Project focuses on encouraging children to set goals and embrace the future with creativity. Bosak said, "A legacy is fundamental to what it is to be human. It is an interconnection across time, with a need for those who have come before us and a responsibility to those who come after us." The Legacy Project is an educational endeavor aimed at nurturing the dreams and creativity of children. Through the program's many initiatives, including books, activity kits, contests, and art exhibits, Bosak is making her own dream a reality. We talked with Susan to hear some back-to-school advice.

Scholastic.com Parents: What role do parents play in the beginning of the school year?
Susan Bosak: The beginning of the year is a really important time. You can set the stage to help kids feel positive about learning. It is essential to create a positive learning environment at home. Support learning by showing interest in your kids' schoolwork.

SP: What's the best way to do that?
Bosak: Ask specific questions about what your child is studying and what is happening with her friends. Use what she is learning in the classroom as a springboard to thinking about her own dreams and goals. If the class is learning about animals, talk about what kinds of careers might involve animals like a veterinarian, farmer, or biologist. Teachers don't always have enough time to do this.

SP: How can parents introduce the idea of goal-setting?
Bosak: Take that extra step by saying, "You've learned this; how can you use it in your real life?" Kids often fail to see that connection. Talk about what their goals are for the year. Try making Origami Dream Stars. Write dreams and goals on strips of paper and fold them into tiny origami stars. It's an artistic, evocative activity that makes goal-setting a little bit more fun and whimsical.

You can help your kids set smart goals. The goal has to be easy to understand and easy for the child to take action. Also, be aware of words that they use. There are a lot of goal-buster words that parents use like "no, never, can't, won't, maybe," so watch your own language and encourage children to be aware of words they use when faced with new challenges or old fears. This helps parents and children develop some positive life skills.

SP: What if kids are too nervous about the school year to contemplate goal-setting?
Bosak: A child who is nervous or concerned is fundamentally scared that she is not good enough. So you want to bring some level of comfort on who she is. A dream chest (see below) might help her focus on who she is and what her skills and talents are.

SP: What should kids do after they've identified some of their goals?
Bosak: Translate the goals into something more practical like a Goal Ladder. In this activity, kids identify something they'd like to learn more about or get better at. With a parent's help, they write a letter outlining what they'd like to do, why they'd like to do it, specific steps to do it, and dates to achieve it. Dreams and goals come with responsibilities and challenges that kids need to map out to achieve. They can also write goals in stars, color them, and hang them in their rooms. 

Parents can also work with kids to make a Dream Chest. Have your child decorate a cardboard box in some way that reflects his interests. Then over the year, he fills it with cool stuff — anything interesting or inspiring: magazine articles, cartoons, poems, quotes, or pictures. Don't think about it too much, just put it in. Throughout the school year, take a look at what is in there. It is a great way for kids to find out who they are. Parents can help them identify patterns by seeing that a lot of the contents of the dream chest are related to sports, or to plants, etc. Then parents know where to put their emphasis when encouraging particular interests.

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