Transitions: Elementary School to Middle School

Elementary school is all fun and games until it is time for the transition from elementary school to middle school. Middle school is a major transition in a child’s life that is filled with physical, mental, and emotional changes and includes many firsts. Like the first time with no recess, the first time to switch teachers every hour, the first time to take honors classes, and the first time to play for your school’s sports team.

During this transition not only are aspects of your child’s school changing, but your child is too. Physically, their body is growing and maturing; they are going through puberty. Mentally, they are adequately challenged in classes or it is too hard. Emotionally, they are experiencing mood swings and outbursts of anger.

Like all transitions, the transition for the child is a transition for the parent too. Parents, talk about these aspects of the elementary school to middle school transition with your child:


Today with social media use there is an increase in bullying. Kids can hide behind their phones and social media accounts to send mean texts and direct messages that they would not say in person. But just because it is not said in person doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt the victim of bullying.


Puberty is a roller coaster of body changes and emotions for both boys and girls. Girls get their periods, boy’s voices change, and both boys and girls experience acne and hair growth in places that they aren’t used to. Mood changes and outbursts of anger are especially heightened when juggling the transitions of middle school.

Emphasis on academics

Academics are one of middle school’s biggest transitions from elementary school. The classes and expectations get higher, and the homework piles up. Your child may go from getting 100% on their grammar tests in elementary school to struggling with writing a paper in honors English. The transition to the academic standards in middle school can take a toll on your child mentally and psychically.


Like bullying, social media has an influence on popularity. Everyone is in competition to post the best Snapchat story or the best Instagram picture. Popularity is an image. In reality, it doesn’t matter how many likes you have on Instagram or how many people have watched your Snapchat story, it matters how good of a friend you are. Encourage your child to care about what is important, like honest and true friendships. That will make them happy, not social media popularity.

For more help and advice with the transition from elementary school to middle school check out Harvest Time Partner’s Face to Face conversation games.

Harvest Time Partners thanks contributing writer Emily Garber for her insights on life’s transitions.

Character Creates Opportunity® – When We Were Children: Thursday, June 29, 2017

No, this is not an “old school” story about walking up hill in the snow both ways to school and how tough it was compared to today’s children.  Rather, it is a note about what we believe.

When we were children, we were “believers.”  We believed in the impossible and we believed it when others said we had great potential and could accomplish great things.  Sure, we also may have believed in the boogeyman and monsters under our bed, but we believed in our potential to do great things.

It may have been a parent teaching us how to ride a bike, shoot a basket, or finish a difficult math problem.  It may have been a coach preparing us for the big game or just a tough practice.  It may have been a friend who was the “adventurer” and helped us believe.  When we were children, someone helped us to believe we had unlimited potential.

There was a time when we believed it.  When we believed in ourselves to achieve great things.

Then something happened.

Someone told us we couldn’t do it and we believed their limitations.  We may have fallen short one too many times.  We may have grown callous to hope through time and experience.

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, we need to face the reality of what has impacted our ability to believe in ourselves and take the necessary steps to believe again.

When we strip away all the fluff, there is the reality of a few key areas that are at the foundation of how we became a non-believer:

  • Fear:  W e all carry with us some fear. Fear of failure, humiliation, going hungry, of being alone, etc.  Fear unchecked can cause us to be unbelievers.  Fear as adults, most often resembles the monster under our bed.  Our fear of whatever, many times does not come about and if it does, it is rarely as worse as it seems…just like the monster under our bed.
  • Negativity: We finally gave in to the negative view that most often surrounds us. Psychologists say it takes most of us about 5 positive, affirmations to overcome one negative opinion.  Often times, we have become overwhelmed by the negativity and slowly we moved down the path of no longer believing in our potential.  Like the character in The Sun Also Rises when asked how did you go bankrupt? “Gradually and then suddenly.”  Our emotional bank account just got too far in the negative that we have felt bankruptcy is our only option.
  • Choice: We make the choice to believe or not to believe. We can pass the buck if want to, but the truth is, we own the choice and at some point, we chose not to believe.

Here are a few ideas to reconnect with our childhood and become believers again in order to reach our full potential:

  • Faith. We all have faith. Whether it is faith in God, ourselves, our family, the truth contained in the natural law of the harvest (we reap what we sow), we all have faith that the sun will come up this morning and we face a new day.  Don’t lose faith.
  • Positive reinforcement. Whether we describe it as counting our blessings, stopping to smell the roses, or taking some inventory of our past accomplishments, we need reminders of the positives in our life. These small, consistent steps are our most effective way to pay off a huge deficit of negativity in our own emotional bank account.
  • The company we keep. Often times, we become like those around us. Seek out the relationships that combine a view the world that is realistic and favors the side of positive and full of opportunity vs. negative and full of doom and gloom.  When our closest, committed relationships have a negative bent, maintain the effort to stay on the positive and our influence will be felt over time.

When we were children, we were believers.  It may be time for each of us to relearn the importance of believing in our potential to achieve the healthy goals we desire like strong, loving relationships, productive employment to make a positive difference in the marketplace and the home front, and those really BIG dreams that many times we have kept to ourselves.

As Teddy Roosevelt believed, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

It is time to become believers again and step back into the ring.

As we make the choice as adults to believe again, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and have a great impact on those around us.

Transitions: Middle School to High School

The transition from middle school to high school is like walking into another town’s shopping mall; some of it is familiar, but the majority of it is new. You have some of the same friends, teammates, interests and habits, but then there’s the new- a new school, new classes, new teachers, new sports teams, and new friends. With all of these major life changes, drama, relationships, parties, and peer pressure inevitably comes too.

Transitions in high school can be awkward for both the parent and child to openly communicate with one another about, but a healthy and open parent to child relationship during the transition from middle school to high school is especially important.

Follow these tips to foster a healthy and open relationship between the parent and child for a smoother transition from middle school to high school.

Parents and Child—Talk Openly

The transition from middle school to high school is the most important time to build an honest and open parent to child relationship because it will continue to blossom throughout high school and onto the high school to college transition. Talking openly about problems, concerns, and thoughts that are embedded in the high school transition will promote honesty, trust, and compromise between the parent and child.

Child—Be Understanding

As a student in high school it can seem like you are always being told what to do and how to feel- especially by your parents. It is important to realize that your parents are expressing their thoughts and concerns about your life decisions because they love you. Understand that no matter how many times you text your parents that you arrived safely at your friends house after driving late they will always worry. Understand that they will always worry for your heart when you start or end a new relationship. Understand that they will always cheer for you, even if you don’t make the team or play.

Parents—What Did You Do?

As you are parenting your child through their transition from middle school to high school, ask yourself: what did I do? You remember what it was like to face peer pressure around drinking and going “too far” in a relationship. Sometimes it was fun to break the rules and other times it was downright scary. You made some poor choices, so what makes you think that your child won’t, too? Tell your child your experiences with alcohol and relationships in high school so they feel comfortable confiding in you about their own experience and problems. By creating this bond and trust with them you can ensure that they know the risks of drinking and sex.

For more help and advice with the transition from high school to college check out Harvest Time Partner’s Face to Face conversation games.

Harvest Time Partners thanks contributing writer Emily Garber for her insights on life’s transitions.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Powerful Tool: Thursday, June 22, 2017

There is a great deal of research and practical experience that demonstrates the power of the written word.  Writing down thoughts and ideas has been proven to bring clarity to our thinking and improve our ability to understand which all enable us to more effectively change our behavior.

In today’s world, there is plenty of advice from personal development gurus, life-coaches, kitchen table psychologists, etc. who would tell us that goals not written down or plans that are only talked about rarely materialize into an accomplishment.  Written words enable us time to reflect, think more clearly, and in turn, take action more effectively.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, the written word becomes a powerful tool to make meaning progress towards any endeavor. “Winging it” is not a sustainable proposition in today’s world that continues to grow in complexity.  Written goals and plans help form the foundation for steady progress.

The below are a few areas of practical application to leverage the power of the written word:

  • A Personal Journal: Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of people of impact who developed the habit of keeping a journal to help shape their attitudes, reinforce their direction in the important areas of life, and continue to make progress towards reaching their full potential.  There are a number of techniques, tools, and resources available to help us, but at the end of the day, we need to choose one that works for us and develop the habit.  We will be following in the footsteps of some pretty effective people and we should be confident that we will make progress in our ability to have a positive impact.
  • Written letters to others: With today’s abundance of online chatter, it should not be lost on anyone that we rarely are givers or receivers of a genuine, well-thought out letter of appreciation, thanks, or encouragement. With the exception of the nice birthday card, holiday greeting, or a line or two of abbreviated text via social media, we probably have not received or given a well thought out letter in a long time.  Some researchers have found that receiving a written word of encouragement is more effective than any other form of communication.

In my own journey, I have found two helpful reminders that put a little fire under me to raise the bar in reaching out to others with a thoughtful and meaningful written letter:

  1. When I look back over certain periods of my professional life, I have spent more time and effort writing to customers or comments to team members than I have in writing a note of encouragement or appreciation to other people in the more lasting areas of my life…perhaps you have too.
  2. Observing the example of others who are raising the bar. A number of years ago, a close friend shared a story with me that has stayed with me and consistently reminds me of how important the written word can be to strengthen relationships.  When he and his siblings went away to college, his father wrote them a letter every single day for four years.  It was not a short letter.  Each letter was a handwritten, single-spaced, two-sided piece of paper describing how proud he was of them, that “the family” was behind them, and how he continued to encourage them to reach their potential.  My friend described many of the wonderful things their father did for them and their family over the years, but that single act of letter writing throughout their college years which demonstrated such dedication, commitment, and encouragement had the greatest impact during their formative years.

That story continues to be a good reminder to me and hopefully to you, that we should raise the bar on our efforts and effectiveness with the written word to the people that matter most in our lives.  I can almost guarantee they will appreciate it.

As we build some habits around the importance of the written word, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to be more effective in the essential areas of life.

Transitions: High School to College

The transition from high school to college is one of the biggest transitions in our young adult life. It is the time when we escape our roots and move to a new place to discover a new version of our self.

You think you have it all figured out in high school; you are well liked, great at your sport, in theatre, or band, and you think you know what you want to do with the rest of your life. But then you go into your freshman year of college and everything changes, and continues to do so throughout your four years.

College- especially freshman year is filled with choices and transitions you have to make in order to grow into the person you will become when you graduate.


In high school you think the friends you have will be your friends forever, and maybe they will be, but you will be surprised at how quickly bonds will form with people you’ve known for only a month. You will bond over mutual interests such as living on the same dorm floor, joining the same sorority, fraternity, and clubs. These social groups are especially important to join if you only know your randomly assigned roommate at your school. It will be awkward to knock on your neighbors door, introduce yourself to the person you sit next to in class, and walk into a welcome meeting for a club by yourself, but that’s the only way you will make friends, and college will be miserable if you don’t. The friendships that you make in college you will have for a lifetime.


It is a Sunday night and you are studying for your quiz you have at 9:00am the next morning, but your friends on your hall knock on your door and invite you to drink with them in their room. You know you should say no and continue studying because you have a B+ in your class on Monday morning, and if you get an A on the quiz it will boost your final grade. But you succumb to peer pressure and say yes anyway. You wake up late the next morning and your professor doesn’t let you take the quiz so you get a zero. Managing your studies and your social life is one of the hardest transitions of freshman year. It is so exciting to have the majority of your friends live on your floor or in your building; it is like one giant sleepover every night. But it is important to remember why you are in college, yes to build friendships, but also to graduate with a college degree and know that you did your best. In situations like this, listen to your gut instinct and do what is best for your conscience and grade.


It would not be a true college experience without making some mistakes, and that is okay, because that is how you learn and grow. College is filled with choices that you have to make; which classes to take, which dorm to live in, which clubs or Greek life organization to join, and more. Sometimes you are peer pressured into the wrong choice or make the wrong choice on your own. Whatever happens, acknowledge that what you did was wrong, learn from it, and try not to make that mistake again.

You think freshman year will be the easiest year of college, but in my experience it is the hardest. Freshman year is awkward, intimidating, and confusing, but still the time of your life. Remember that no one’s freshman year is easy, and try to make the most of the crazy and fun life that is college.

For more help and advice with the transition from high school to college check out Harvest Time Partner’s Face to Face conversation games.

Harvest Time Partners thanks contributing writer Emily Garber for her insights on life’s transitions.

Character Creates Opportunity® – An Effective Combination: Thursday, June 15, 2017

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, there is the occasional need to remind and reinforce the truth that there are no quick and easy solutions to address the major challenges in life or to accomplish our major goals in life.  As the saying goes, “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.”

Despite the reality that there are no easy fixes, we continue to be baited and many times hooked to the idea of “3 simple steps” to awesome relationships, the “10 minute workout” that will keep us healthy and fit, or by simply answering the “one big question” we will energize our team to win in the marketplace.

When I hear those “simple and easy” pitches, I am reminded of the quote by Michelangelo, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery; it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.”

There are a number of techniques that can help us increase our personal effectiveness, achieve some goal, or support our team to reach a key milestone. These techniques may change with the times and the technology, but there are two principles that will help to determine our level of effectiveness over the long haul.

The first principle is Education:  Formal education in high school, college or graduate school will certainly play a part.  However, for most adults, continual, ongoing education throughout life is the critical factor.  When we remain open to learn from others, from our experiences, from mentors and friends, take a new class, read a book, or watch an educational video on the internet, we continue to grow.  When we make a choice to remain closed to continually educating ourselves, we fail to grow.  Failing to grow is a problem no “quick fix” will overcome.

The second principle is Effort:  There is no substitute for the energy required to work hard and persevere.  The significant achievements in life don’t come about from quick wit, smooth talking, or the one brilliant solution, they come about from good old fashion effort over time, just like we learned as kids.   Building and maintaining healthy relationships, especially those in the home, takes an enormous amount of intentional effort.  The “happily ever after” stories we read as kids fell short on that reality.  However, our life experience reinforces the reality that intentional effort over time is the foundation for healthy relationships.

In addition to being a good reminder for all us, I especially wanted to highlight these principles for two specific groups of people:

  1. For those who are currently in a tough struggle to reach a goal and anxiousness, worry, and doubt are draining precious energy. My hope is that this will be an encouraging reminder of the truth that education and effort are the foundation of achievement.  Reaching a goal is not about being the smartest, having the best connections, or just plain luck.  Education and effort will play to our favor in the long haul, so keep moving forward on those two fronts no matter how tough the present struggle.
  2. For those who still maybe holding out hope that there is that secret, quick-fix formula out there to reach our hopes and dreams. My hope is that this blog could be a sobering reminder to you and those you influence that the secret, quick-fix to the important things in life is not a reality.  Education and effort will always play a part in the foundation for achievement.

As we continue to increase our effort and our ongoing education, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to improve relationships, overcome challenges, and reach our goals.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The List That Matters Most: Thursday, June 8, 2017

We can all use a little help in making the really big decisions in life.  Benjamin Franklin is recognized as one of the wisest men in our nation’s history.  He is known for a method of decision making that has been widely used throughout the world.  Essentially, Franklin’s process is a matter of drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper, listing the pros and cons, reflecting on them, and then making a decision.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we determine what list we bring out when we face difficulties and need to make a decision.  These are times when we just can’t take Yogi Berra’s advice; “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  In reality, when we face challenges and need to make a difficult decision, there are two lists we bring out to help guide our decision.

The FIRST List is the one that energizes and encourages us.  It reminds us of the times when we actually accomplished something special.  The times we received that fortunate break, the positive direction from a close friend, and the help we needed.  It reminds us of the blessings of a good start, of being born at a great time, in a land of freedom and opportunity.  This list reminds us of the nice things that people say about us.  This list speaks to us about our growth and potential.

The SECOND List is the one that drains and discourages us.  It reminds us of those nagging challenges in our lives that we continually face. This list highlights the troubles in our family and the hurtful, personal attacks we have felt in our lives.  This list shows the people around us who seem to get all the breaks and live at the corner of “lucky” and “easy” streets.  This list reminds us of the times we have been misunderstood and got the short end of the stick.  This list speaks to us about our disappointments and regrets.

The reality for all of us is that at every major decision point, family challenge, or workplace event, we have a choice as to which list we review.  We will read it, review it, ponder over it, and we will rely on it to decide what to do next.  The choice is ours to make and whether we acknowledge it or not, we make this decision all the time.

Here are a few reasons why the FIRST List should be the only one that matters:

  1. There is a ton of scientific research and practical life experience that would recommend “count your blessings, name them one by one” really does work in elevating our level of performance, maintaining mental and emotional health, and reaching our goals.  There is too much proof to disregard the importance of reminding ourselves of the list of blessings in our lives when we face difficult and challenging situations.
  2. We cast a shadow on those around us, whether we accept it or not.  When we choose from the Second List, we often drag that attitude around for a while and it has the potential to bring down those around us who we care about most.  We all are in a position of influence and it is not a kind thing to do when we bring a dark cloud over others based on our reliance on our Second List.

Every point of transition and decision are clear opportunities to learn and grow.  They are not dead-ends to remind us that we have limits.  We are not mice running in the proverbial walled box looking for cheese and no chance for freedom.  Each fork in the road opens up a new opportunity to learn, grow, and reach our potential.

As we read from the FIRST List and crumple up the Second List, we choose hope, courage, and opportunity.  When we base our decisions on the FIRST List, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to reach our potential and have a positive impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Building Momentum: Thursday, June 1, 2017

The positive financial impact of compounding interest is well known and has been reinforced by some of the brightest minds in our history.  Benjamin Franklin described compounding as “Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more.”  A quote commonly attributable to Albert Einstein is, “Compounding is mankind’s greatest invention because it allows for the reliable, systematic accumulation of wealth.” Compound interest is one way our money can make more money. It is a simple, yet effective way of gaining momentum in the journey to build financial strength.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, the concept of compounding interest can provide some insight in building momentum to reach our hopes and dreams.  Before we go there, it is important to first acknowledge that we all have an element of our nature that wants a quick fix to our struggles or a fast track to achieving our life-long goals.  We want financial security now and there is a strong appeal to some quick, potentially high return investment.  We listen to a motivational speaker at some high energy conference and we expect great results on day one.  We attend a weekend marriage retreat and plan to apply the ‘5 principles of a great marriage’ on Monday and then we expect to finally have the relationship we desire.  We get the DVD series and new juice blender to lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks and we believe we have found the fountain of youth (we have cabinets full of these DVDs and blenders in case any of you are wondering).

The reality is that quick, lasting fixes don’t happen in the major and most important areas of our life.   As we think about the principle of compounding interest, there are some relevant learnings that compounding can have in many areas of our lives beyond financing.  When we look at a graph of building financial strength with compounding over time, the ‘wealth curve’ appears relatively flat in the early years and then slowly builds momentum and the curve gets very steep in later years.  The consistent application of some small dollar amount placed in a savings or investment portfolio will put any one of us on the path to building a small fortune over time. The principle is that we need to stick with it, leave the money alone, and let the interest grow.

Guiding our thoughts, decisions, and actions by the principle of compounding in other areas of our lives can help build momentum to reach our goals.

In Relationships:

There are probably many things we can do to improve the relationships of those closest to us.  There are countless books and blogs out there to help all of us.  Applying the principle of compounding by making a decision to do something small and consistent over time will help.  For example, we could just focus on being a better listener.  When we feel like immediately jumping in with a comment or correction, if, just once a day, we held back and focused on listening with the intent to understand the other person, we would be on a better path to building strong relationships with those that matter most.  Just changing our behavior once a day in conversations will build momentum in our relationships and the compounding interest curve will continue to rise with the eventual outcome being healthier relationships.

In Health and Wellness:

We all have struggles with some aspect of staying physically healthy.  For some it is overeating, others it is getting little to no exercise, for still others a lack of sleep can contribute to health problems.  There are plenty of resources out there to help us get on the right path to improving our health.  With the principle of compounding, find one small, relevant step we can do and stick with it.  Perhaps leaving a few bites of dessert behind is a potential step to take or drinking one less can of soda throughout the day.  For others it may be walking one more lap around the block or maybe 5 more minutes of some cardio-workout.  The point is that whatever the choice, making one small change, consistently over time, will pay tremendous interest over time with regards to our health and wellness.  There is a great deal of academic research and practical experience to dispute the lasting impact of any extreme fad diet or exercise regimen.  However, the consistent application of small incrementally positive steps toward improving our health will make a lasting impact.

In Personal Development:

We all have areas we need to improve professionally and personally.  Perhaps attending some high energy seminar will kick us in gear to take the first step.  However, it will be small incremental changes that will bring about lasting change.  For example, reading books relevant to our chosen profession for 15 minutes a day or keeping a daily journal of progress toward some goal are small steps, that over time, have proven to produce huge dividends in personal growth and accomplishment.   These actions start small, build over time, and gain momentum to have a positive sustainable impact.

Remember the compounding of interest…just keep making steady, small, consistent steps in the right direction and the results will be tremendous over the long haul.  The curve will be relatively flat at first, but it will get steeper over time.  It is how we finish, not the “dash and flash” at the start, that really matters.  As we continue to apply the principle of compounding in other areas of our life, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® for us to make a real difference in our world.