The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Help Your Child


When we have children, most of us should know, our time is no longer ours. Before marriage and children, one can come and go as one pleases. If we have had a few years living as an adult, at least we have enjoyed our freedom long enough that giving it up for our children, though still a sacrifice, we have given ourselves the opportunity to indulge in life’s magic. When we have children very young, in our teen years, we do not get the chance to discover who we are and what we want from life – we now have to give that time to our kids.

The time for play is, for the most part, over. Some of the magic of our lives is gone. Now come the responsibilities of life. Sometimes we resent having to give so much of ourselves because we had just begun our life and now we must give it to our children. This is one of the most important reasons why it is not a good idea to have children at an age in which we are still learning about ourselves and are not ready to stop our development to take care of the development of our children.  Another reason, and just as important, is economics. We are too young and we have not had time to learn a trade or study at the university to acquire the skills necessary to survive. So, how do we give to our children when we are still taking? It is not easy.

But it must be done. From the moment our children come into the world they take, and we give. It is the way of the world. Our children need us for everything. Like it or not, we start the long parenting trip. Parenting is the most important job in the world, and the most demanding. In a strange way this constant giving is a blessing; it takes us out of our self-involvement and it forces us to become involved with a human being whose life is totally dependent on us. The best parents are the most involved. This means that beyond feeding, clothing, and providing shelter, we must give from our very core and involve ourselves in the duty and the privilege of making our children successful. How do we do that? We involve ourselves daily in their lives. We give them the best of us and we keep on giving. The better parents we are to our children the better the chances that, when their turn comes, they will be involved parents too.

A good parent is involved in his/her children’s friends. Who are they? What are their parents like? What kind of things they like to do? Where are they? What are they doing there? Are they in trouble? Why are they in trouble? How can we avoid trouble? What are they doing in school? Who are their teachers? Are they good teachers for our children? What is the school doing with them? What, if any, are the activities and events the school is having, and should we be part of them? What information we should have regarding their behavior in school? Are they learning at the rate they should? If not, why not? What do we have to do to remedy the situation?

Involvement goes on and on. The best parents are the most involved. It is a high price to pay; giving our lives totally to them, but if we do not do it others might want to get involved with our children that could take them in the wrong direction. So, we must do it! I know it all sounds so difficult. And it is. But it is also the most rewarding way to spend our lives. The best parents raise the best kids. And is it not what we want? Yes! You might find that getting involved in their lives is the most enjoyable thing in the world. Try it. Get involved!

The Charles Schulz Philosophy

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip.
You don’t have to actually answer the questions. Just ponder on them.
Just read this post straight through, and you’ll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.

4 Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday.
These are no second-rate achievers.
They are the best in their fields.
But the applause dies..
Awards tarnish..
Achievements are forgotten.
Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money…or the most awards.
They simply are the ones who care the most.

Are We Waiting for Superman?


I saw a great movie today. Actually, it’s more than a movie; it’s a document. And more than a document, it is an indictment; a condemnation of the American educational system. This documentary shows us why we have gone from being the best educational system in the world down to the 27th out of the 30 industrialized nations in the world. The richest country in the world is producing the worst students.


Why is this? The documentary shows that teachers are not doing their jobs. Specifically, union teachers who have put their interests ahead of those of the ones they are supposed to help; children.

At Learning is M.A.G.I.C., I am a teacher.  I admire teachers. The best ones are magical. Teachers hold in their hands the future of innocent children who put their trust in them. Teachers hold in their hands the future of America. Great teachers equal great country. They have my respect and my admiration.

The bad teachers are the ones responsible. They have given up on themselves and on their students. A 22-year old college graduate who enters the teaching profession can get tenure in two years. Many teachers, knowing they cannot be fired, just sit and collect their salaries for 40 years. “I don’t care if they learn,” a teacher is quoted saying in the film. What? You don’t care if your charges learn? But that’s your calling. It’s like a physician saying, “I don’t care if my patients die.”

In most professions, one is held to a simple standard: one does a good job, one gets paid. One does a bad job, one gets fired. Joe Hernandez, a retired principal and a friend of mine, once explained to me that the firing of a bad teacher is so Byzantine that principals have given up trying. Hurrah for the Teachers’ Union! They win another battle. But the battlefield is littered with the destroyed lives of children who give up on themselves because some teachers have given up on them.

How to fix it?

The good news is that not all teachers give up. These teachers are proving that children of all races, religions, and social classes can learn if held to a high standard. The film shows that this is happening in some of the worst school districts in the country. An African American principal, Geoffrey Canada, who came from a poor family and through his efforts graduated from a prestigious Ivy League university, requested to be given the worst school in his area. Then, he made a promise to parents and students that his teachers would see their students from kindergarten to college. And he and his teachers are doing it!

Proof enough that it doesn’t matter what color you are or how rich you are; if you have great teachers you will have great students. His is a charter school that gives him the right to hire and fire as necessary. He says that a bad teacher barely covers 50% of the required curriculum and a good teacher covers 150%.

The teaching profession is a difficult one. But who said it was easy? Firemen know theirs is a difficult profession too. Should they give up and let the houses and forests burn? Learning is difficult too, but it can be a magical experience when a caring, committed, and skillful teacher practices it.

Please! Teachers out there! Don’t give up on yourselves and your students. Don’t sit like a sloth and collect a pay you don’t deserve. Get out of the profession and try another one that excites you and rewards you. Leave the classroom to those angels who care enough about the kids to reach the unreachable star!

Oh, yes. The name of the film is Waiting for Superman. (CLICK THE LINK FOR A PREVIEW!) Go see it! If you’re a bad teacher it might just shake you up enough that you will become a good teacher. If you are a good teacher, it will inspire you to greater heights. I guarantee it! This film will touch the hardest heart and it will melt the sweetest soul. Go see it! Now!

Do it for the children!

In Praise of Jacarandas

Tonyo Melendez Writes:

This time of the year in Southern California, the Jacarandas are in flower. Streets become purple tunnels formed by these beautiful beings that, silently, give us so much and ask nothing in return. I find them inspiring. They are beautiful all year round in their green uniforms as they watch us drive by under them on our way to everywhere. I wonder if they think we are silly, running around in circles from home to work, and work to home achieving little in our busy days. Then one day, magically, they decide to turn purple. Why do they do that?  The stately Jacarandas, bemused by our goings and comings, decide to help us by turning purple. Maybe then we will pay attention. Maybe then we will slow down and enjoy their beauty. Most of us continue to rush by without a backward glance, but a few of us take the time to appreciate their elegance, their silent confidence, and their wisdom. For they know the futility of our haste. They have seen it a thousand times and wonder if we will ever understand the joy and peace stillness brings. The Jacarandas know it and they go out of their way to call our attention to it. That’s why they change color. They want us to learn. If green will not do it, maybe purple will get us to slow down, enjoy the moment, and even reflect upon it. We don’t do enough of that. The Jacarandas, knowing this, turn purple every year for us in hope that maybe this time we will notice the beauty around us and be grateful for the gift trees give us every day. Once in a while, in a hot summer day, we go under them and enjoy their protective shade. As the breeze blows gently by, conspiring with the Jacaranda to get us to enjoy the gifts we ignore daily in favor of worry, haste, and waste. Slow down, the Jacarandas are saying in their quiet way, enjoy us trees, and flowers, and clouds, and skies, and colors. Sit on the grass, let go, and experience the bounty that is nature and be grateful that in its quiet security it continues to give of itself without expecting anything in return other than awareness of a world which gently gives us beauty, protection and love. This year you got to me Jac. You always have made me aware of you, but this year more than ever you reached me. You made me enjoy you more than ever before. Thank you Jac, or should I say Mr. Aranda? Whichever way you prefer, it’s a pleasure to share the world with you, Jac Aranda.

Where Do We Learn to Be Parents?


Where Do We Learn to Be Parents?

This is the greatest paradox: The most important job anyone can do; to be a parent, is the one most of us are completely unprepared to do.

We don’t do that with any job. We don’t entrust our car to someone who does not know anything about fixing it. We don’t let anyone who knows nothing about the law, represent us in a legal matter. We would not go to a restaurant to have a meal cooked by someone who has never cooked. And yet, we bring children into the world with no preparation whatsoever.

As a result, surprise, surprise, we make an untold amount of mistakes as we stumble bringing up our children.

The damage that parents do to children, wittingly or otherwise, stays with our children for the rest of their lives. Should not be there classes in parenting so as to not continue to make mistakes which often are irreparable?

The answer is self evident.

If we want to turn out better sons and daughters who eventually will be parents themselves, we most do a better job of parenting. Especially now that our children are being bombarded by a technological world that is changing as we speak. Children of today are facing greater challenges that any other generation before. They need our help, more than ever.

I ask the world out there to heed this warning: Educate the parents of tomorrow for their children are the future of the world. I know it sounds grandiloquent, but it is true. If we do not, a terrible price will be paid by the generations that follow.

Please, talk to your schools, your board of education leaders, your local and state representatives and request Parental Education so the generations of the future have a better chance to succeed.

We, at Learning is  M.A.G.I.C., are doing our part by bringing our Parenting is M.A.G.I.C. program to the schools. We ask you to help us in this most important task.

Generosity of Spirit

Tonyo Melendez writes:

Is it within the heart of humankind to be naturally generous? I would like to think so but, I feel the natural process of life works against it. We may be born with generosity, it may be our natural inclination, but because of the natural order, little by little generosity of spirit is replaced by selfish self interest.

When I became a father, I was astounded at the length of dependency the human child has to go through before reaching self-sufficiency. A colt is dropped by its mother and within minutes the animal is walking and trotting and soon thereafter, galloping apace. Humans by contrast take at least a year to take their first step. All this time they have been vulnerable and dependent. Everything has to be done for them. Years go by before that child is able to take care of himself.

All those years the child has been taking, taking, taking. After a while, it is easy to see why the child may see it as his birthright to take. Mother, father, older siblings, and sundry uncles, aunts, and grandparents unwittingly, or not, collude in the making of a selfish human being. It cannot be otherwise, being that for so many years the child has been taking – not giving. It becomes imperative, therefore, that the offspring be taught generosity of spirit. A concerted effort has to be made by the family and later on, educators, to teach the child to give. And to give without the expectation of receiving; to give for the sake of giving. We must teach them to give first.

Giving can be scary because rejection can rear its ugly head. But learn to give we must. Good parents know this instinctively. Good parents are rare. It is important, therefore, that the world at large support this effort. That’s what we’re doing in our parent involvement workshop, Parenting is M.A.G.I.C. It’s a win-win proposition, for it feels good to give and it feels good to receive. The children are the better for it and society at large is better for it. Let’s encourage our children to give. It is good for them and the world.

Don’t you think? Learning to give is magic!

The 24-Minute Miracle

Ruben Padilla writes:

Whenever Tonyo Melendez and I are about to begin a new relationship with a school, we work very hard to deliver all that we’ve promised.  When a school is interested in our popular parental involvement program, Parenting is MAGIC, we often begin with a free, half-hour presentation to parents that outlines what we offer.

Of course, with over 60 hours of material that we can teach, a half hour isn’t even a drop in the bucket, and with people signing in and introductory remarks, we’re lucky to get twenty-four minutes of teachable time.

Because of this tiny window, Tonyo and I sat down to work out what an ideal half hour presentation should deliver.  This is what we came up with, and what we’ll deliver to your school in just twenty-four minutes:

You will be amazed (guaranteed!).

You will think.

You will share.

You will learn.

You will laugh.

You will leave with valuable information that you can put into action that very day!

Now, if we can deliver all these things to you in 24 minutes, imagine what we can do in 24 hours.

Would that be a great class?

Would that be worth your time?

Would that make a positive impact on your school?

Still not convinced?  What if we tried it right now – in a blog!  Don’t think we can do it?  Watch this:

Think of any number from one to ten! (And don’t read ahead until you’ve done each step!)

Got it?

Now multiply it by 9.  (Now you’re THINKING!)

If your answer is a two-digit number, like 12, add the two digits together (i.e.1+2=3)

Now subtract five from your answer.

Now, take this new number, and turn it into a letter.  (For example 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, etc.)

Now, think of any European country that starts with this letter.

Got one?

Now, take the second letter of this country’s name, and think of any African animal.

Got it?

Now think of the color of this animal.

Got it?



You’re thinking of a grey elephant in Denmark!

Did it work?  If so, hopefully you were AMAZED and you LAUGHED.  Now, go ahead and LEARN it (it’s very simple), and SHARE it with somebody today (hopefully, your child!).  Then, THINK of an interesting fact or two about Denmark and TEACH that child something valuable!  If you need help, here’s a Wikipedia link for Denmark:

And one for Africa:

And even one for elephants:

You see?  Learning really IS magic!

If you haven’t yet done so, please take a look at our website, and learn how we can help make a positive difference.  You can also call us at (818) 549-9101.  We look forward to talking with you and answering your questions.

How To Build A Strong Family Foundation One Small Nail At A Time

Ruben Padilla writes…

It’s always a treat whenever we see a Dad at one of our parent workshops because, sadly, it’s all too rare. Understandably, dads are often at work and unable to attend. Or worse, they’re not active in their childrens’ lives. So when we see a male figure in the classroom, we always celebrate it with encouragement, because we need more of them.

Recently, we delivered our Parenting is MAGIC program at Rowan Elementary School in Los Angeles. As luck would have it, a Dad showed up! He quietly sat on the side of the room and attended each workshop with his wife and young daughter (two other children were in school).

As is often the case, it took little time for this man (we’ll call him Juan) to feel comfortable enough to share his struggle with us.

Juan had a history of heavy drinking and abusive behavior towards his wife and children. These related problems cost him his job and nearly his family, and he desperately wanted to turn the tide.

He announced that he hadn’t had a drink since our first workshop and, with the newfound information and motivation we provided with each class, planned to stay sober for the rest of his life.

His honesty and willingness to share his plight in a roomful of women was no easy task, but his confession and commitment helped others to open up and also share their stories. We were fortunate to have Juan with us, and we let him know how important he was to us, his family, and the other parents.

We also learned that Juan was a fine craftsman who wanted work designing and repairing furniture. Tonyo Melendez and I commissioned him for some work to get started and helped him get his own business cards to pass out to potential clients.

Since then, we’ve kept in touch with Juan, checking in periodically to see how he’s doing.

He hasn’t had a drink all year. 2010 has been alcohol free, and his relationship with his wife and children has improved greatly. He works out of his home, so he gets to spend quality time with his family, and business is improving.

It’s these kinds of victories that inspire us to keep fighting the good fight, and we look forward to future stories of inspiration and hope in these trying times.

As always, we welcome your comments.

And if you need to repair a piece of furniture…

100 Ways to Praise a Child

Ruben Padilla writes:

In our Learning is M.A.G.I.C. academic program, we’re amazed at how many times we encounter a child who has gone an entire day without being acknowledged by an adult. For some reason, the teacher may neglect to address them directly. After school, once the child is at home, they can easily get lost in the shuffle of daily activities, especially when there are other brothers and sisters also vying for attention. No child should experience this.

Below are one hundred examples of something that you can say or do that will show a child (yours or not) that they’re valuable, relevant, unique, and loved.

Don’t let a day pass without expressing one of these praises. And remember – they’re also great for adults too!

You’re Magical * You Made a Great Plan * You Acted Without Fear * You’re Growing As A Person * You’re Imagining Without Limits * You’re Committed To Excellence * Way to Go * Super * You’re Special * Outstanding * Excellent * Great * Well Done * Remarkable * I Knew You Could Do it * I’m Proud of You * Fantastic * Nice Work * Looking Good * You’re On Top Of It * Beautiful * Now You’re Flying * You’re Catching On * Now You’ve Got It * You’re Incredible * Bravo * You’re Fantastic * Hurray For You * You’re On Target * You’re On Your Way * How Nice * How Smart * Good Job * That’s Incredible * You’re Unique * Nothing Can Stop You Now * Good For You * I Like You * You’re A Winner * Amazing Job * Beautiful Work * You’re Spectacular * You’re Darling * You’re Precious * Great Discovery * You’ve Discovered The Secret * You Figured It Out * Fantastic Job * Hip, Hip, Hooray * Bingo * Magnificent * Marvelous * Terrific * You’re Important * Phenomenal * You’re Sensational * Super Work * Creative Job * Super Job * Excellent Job * Exceptional Performance * You’re A Real Trooper * You Are Responsible * You’re Exciting * You Learned It Right * What An Imagination * What A Good Listener * You’re Fun * You’re Growing Up * You Tried Hard * You Care * Beautiful Sharing * Outstanding Performance * You’re A Good Friend * I Trust You * You’re Important * You Mean A Lot To Me * You Make Me Happy * You Belong * You’ve Got A Friend * You Make Me Laugh * You Brighten My Day * I Respect You * You Mean The World To Me * That’s Correct * You’re A Joy * You’re A Treasure * You’re Wonderful * You’re Perfect * Awesome * A+ Job * You’re A-OK * My Buddy * You Make My Day * That’s The Best * A Big Hug * A Big Kiss * I Love You * Give Them A Big Smile

What Happened to Romantic Heroism?

Tonyo Melendez writes:

Once upon a time, parents expected their children to grow up to do great things. But that was once upon a time.
Now, it seems to me, as I meet children in schools and classrooms, parents seem to be asking their kids to just get by; stay out of trouble and graduate. Why is this? Why are parents expecting so little from their children?
The same is true of teachers. Not all, but enough teachers seem to expect the students to scrape by. The expectations are so low and the students, who don’t know any better, live up to the low expectations.
Have we given up on the kids? Is it too much trouble to expect excellence? The only place where expectations seem to still be high is in sports; which is good, but not good enough.
We should expect great things from this generation of children. They are just as good, if not better than the children of the past.
How do we produce a kid that grows up to be a Christopher Columbus, a Martin Luther King, a Marie Curie, a Tennessee Williams, a Bill Gates, a Placido Domingo?
It seems to me the only way to do this is to expect more from them. We need to inspire them to do great things. We need to motivate them to reach for the stars. We need to tell them that they are the heroes of their generation. They would believe us because they want to be special, and great, and wonderful.
Who wants to be average, common, and ordinary? I don’t know any child who would want to be that. Would you?
Let’s be romantic again and expect our children to do great deeds. Let’s ask them to be great. Let’s encourage them to break the chains of mediocrity and be the heroes of our future.
If we do that, maybe, just maybe, we will see them fulfill that promise, that vision, that hope.
All our children have the seed of greatness in them.