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3 Statistics That Truly Explain Why the U.S. Education System Is Failing

Failing SchoolI was curious about something regarding public schools. I wondered what it would look like if I compared an average of the top-50 school districts in the United States to 50 of the worst school districts in the United States. I went to, and I pulled statistics from the top-50 public school districts and entered those education metrics into a spreadsheet. I then did the same thing for 50 school districts near the bottom. These would be 50 failing schools. However, the bottom school districts I selected were not the very bottom, but slightly up from the bottom. The reason was the very bottom schools had a lot of missing metrics and that led to meaningless results. And frankly, once you look it schools below a certain threshold, it becomes silly to compare which is worse. At some point the metrics are just so awful that ranking them just isn’t going to matter. I gathered metrics from 50 failing school districts relatively close to the bottom, and I avoided cherry-picking which ones, so the results would be meaningful. After the stats were entered into the spreadsheet I averaged the metrics and looked at them side-by-side to see if anything stood out. Here are the results:

Average of
top 50
Average of
50 “near-bottom”
Percent Proficient Reading 84.40% 31.80%
Percent Proficient Math 80.50% 21.60%
Average Graduation Rate 96.40% 5.60%
Average SAT 1314 25
Average ACT 29 1
Students 7612 1923
Free or Reduced Lunch 11.20% 67.40%
Female 48.90% 48.70%
Male 51.10% 51.30%
White 66.40% 45.40%
African-American 5.70% 11.60%
Hispanic 7.40% 33.80%
Asian 16.40% 2.50%
Multiracial 4.00% 3.60%
Native American 0.20% 2.80%
Pacific Islander 0.10% 0.30%
Student/Teacher Ratio 14 16
Average Teacher Salary $80,652.00 $51,882.00
Expenses Per Student $19,446.00 $11,601.00
Education Expenses: Instruction 62.00% 57.00%
Education Expenses: Support Services 36.00% 37.00%
Education Expenses: Other 2.00% 4.00%

If you look at the table above there are some interesting insights that stand out.

Insight #1: Teacher Salary

The average salary for teachers in the top 50 school districts was $80,652, while the average salary at the bottom 50 was $51,882 — a 55% difference. It’s extremely interesting to think about why that is the case, so we will look at that later.

teacher pay
Teachers in the top schools earn 55% more than those in the bottom schools.

Insight #2: Class Sizes

Notice that class sizes for the top 50 and bottom 50 are not that different. The class sizes for the top 50 had a student/teacher ratio of 14:1, while the bottom 50 had a student/teacher ratio of 16:1. It’s interesting that good schools and bad schools have student/teacher ratios that are so close to each other. I think it’s one of the more important insights to be looked at. We will delve into it deeper later in this article.

Insight #3: Poverty

It is not surprising to see that such a large number of failing districts had issues with poverty, as indicated by the free or reduced lunch metric. Poverty, above all, is the root cause of problems in public schools. By that I mean, if you solve the education-issues that accompany poverty, you solve school problems. Doing that would have a positive impact on everything from dropout rates to crime-prevention, and would be a tremendous investment in our economy and overall happiness as a nation.

Let’s begin looking at these three interesting insights — teacher salary, class sizes, and poverty — and discuss what they really mean to education.

Why do teachers at the top school districts earn a higher salary than teachers in failing school districts?

Interviewing a teacher who has experience with the situation reveals part of the reason: They stay longer a the top school districts, which means their average salary is based on more teachers at the upper end of the pay scale. Bad districts have high teacher turnover rates. Often, they are new teachers just trying to get their first teaching job so they can move on to a better school district. When they leave, another new teacher will take over the vacancy and start at the bottom of the pay scale again. This keeps the salary expenses very low, but it is extremely indicative of an ongoing problem. Teachers don’t want to stay because the school is failing, the district isn’t supportive of its teachers, and the teachers don’t feel as if they can make a difference because of poor leadership, unmotivated students, a lack of resources, lower pay, and ongoing issues within the district.

You cannot really talk about public schools without talking about teacher unions. Let’s consider how teacher unions affect pay and performance. But let’s not just discuss it. Let’s look at teacher union statisics.

Are teacher unions good or bad?

Teachers unions are an obvious reason for higher teacher pay. Lately, teacher unions have been a common target for what’s wrong with schools. Arguments against teacher unions are that they protect mediocre teachers’ jobs and maintain the status quo. Do they?

The following table ranks academic performance in all states and the District of Columbia from best to worst, and the far right column is an indicator of teacher union strength in that state. The data source is from the Thomas Fordham Institute.

1 MA Medium
2 NJ Very Strong
3 VT Somewhat Strong
4 MD Medium
5 CT Somewhat Strong
6 NH Medium
7 PA Very Strong
8 WY Medium
9 NY Very Strong
10 MN Somewhat Strong
11 WI Somewhat Strong
12 VA Very Weak or Nonexistent
13 RI Very Strong
14 ME Medium
15 ND Medium
16 DE Somewhat Strong
17 IL Very Strong
18 NE Medium
19 IA Medium
20 AK Somewhat Strong
21 IN Medium
22 WA Very Strong
23 OH Somewhat Strong
24 CO Somewhat Weak
25 HI Somewhat Strong
26 KS Somewhat Weak
27 KY Medium
28 DC Medium
29 MT Very Strong
30 FL Very Weak or Nonexistent
31 MO Somewhat Weak
32 UT Somewhat Weak
33 GA Very Weak or Nonexistent
34 WV Somewhat Strong
35 MI Somewhat Strong
36 TN Somewhat Weak
37 NC Somewhat Weak
38 SD Somewhat Weak
39 OR Very Strong
40 AR Very Weak or Nonexistent
41 CA Very Strong
42 TX Very Weak or Nonexistent
43 SC Very Weak or Nonexistent
44 LA Very Weak or Nonexistent
45 AZ Very Weak or Nonexistent
46 OK Very Weak or Nonexistent
47 AL Somewhat Strong
48 ID Somewhat Weak
49 NM Somewhat Weak
50 MS Very Weak or Nonexistent
51 NV Medium

Look at the above table. Why are the states with the weakest teacher unions and the lowest pay also the ones that rank at the bottom in academic performance? Teacher unions are often blamed for schools’ problems, yet the states with the strongest teachers unions have the best academic performance.


It’s not an easy question to answer. You can see some indication where strong teacher unions have bad schools, such as California. You can also see some examples where weak or non-existent teacher unions have good schools, like Virginia. But analyzing the data in whole clearly shows that stronger teacher union districts have better school systems, and if society is ever going to get past making educational decisions based on myths, this fact needs to be understood.

Part of the reason that the better schools are the ones with strong teacher unions is that teachers are willing to stay at a job if they are treated well. Teacher unions look after the job conditions for the teachers, which is why they are often blamed for protecting the jobs of bad teachers. But if that was the biggest thing that teacher unions did then you would see the schools with teacher unions performing worse than non-union schools because they would be full of bad teachers.

Before continuing, let’s talk about something everyone should be able to agree on. Any enterprise, whether it be a school, a business, or some other organization, will only be successful if issues are brought up and corrected. In good organizations, employees or people lower in the organization notice issues, give feedback to managers or people at the top, and those issues get corrected. That’s the ideal case, and it leads to a successful organization. If an organization ignores systematic issues that people lower in the organization point out, then the problems are never corrected, and the organization suffers.

I think everyone can agree on that simple idea. So how does this apply to teacher unions?

When used correctly, teacher unions become an essential component to a school’s success because they raise essential education-related issues up to administrators so they can be resolved. Teachers notice problems because they see issues first-hand. But there are many reasons a teacher might not be inclined to tell an administrator about the issue in a non-union environment. The teacher may not feel like the administrator will do anything about it, or they may feel like they are putting their job in jeopardy if they complain. If an administrator sets the example of not acting on teachers’ concerns, the price is that teachers will stop communicating their concerns. They will let the problems go unresolved. But if a school has a strong teacher union, the teacher can bring the issue up to the union, and the union will take appropriate action with the administrators.

This helps to explain why some schools with strong teacher unions still do poorly, such as in California. In California, the problems are bigger than a union’s or administration’s ability to solve. These are issues like poverty and overly large class sizes for students with significant learning gaps that are not being addressed.

So it takes much more than a strong teacher union to have a successful school. And it’s also the case the non-union schools can enjoy great performance, too. But it takes something else. That “something else” is leadership who will listen to the teachers and an environment where the administrators can correct the issues that teachers point out. If any of that fails, the organization ultimately fails, too.

Inequality in public school funding

Data clearly shows that the best schools are well-funded schools. Underfunded schools like in Nevada simply cannot provide the resources to help children succeed. But funding is an issue everywhere in the United States. Even affluent school districts such as Fairfax County Virginia have had issues with funding, as you can see in this video:

School systems get money primarily from local funding sources. In good school districts, the population supports the schools financially. They do this with property taxes, state and local income taxes, and school levies. The heavy dependence on property taxes is a very large reason that public schools are underfunded. Once a school system begins to have problems, people with children decide not to live there. Property values decline, which drives down property tax revenue even further. This negative feedback loop results in a downward spiral until the school system stabilizes into some low level of funding, and the school plateaus without the resources to recover.

Are teachers overpaid?

Here is an interesting perspective on the cost of school. Consider how much it would cost to hire a childcare service to watch your children for 8 hours per day, 180 days per year. Just consider a childcare worker who comes to your home and watches them. Would $10 per hour be a reasonable rate to trust your children to?

Now consider you actually want the caretaker who watches them to spend an extra couple of hours each day at home developing a daily set of lessons to teach your children for Math, Science, History, English, Geography and so on. Would you expect to pay more?

Now assume that you want the childcare worker to have credentials, such as a degree in education, perhaps a masters degree, and several hours per year spent on professional development.

Next, you decide you want some extracurricular activities thrown in for your child, such as football, chess club, or band. You insist that the childcare service provide that for your child. What would you expect to pay now? Certainly not $10 per hour anymore.

Then, you want the caretaker to provide books and supplies, and a computer for your child. And you want access to a library and other resources.

A quick Google search for the average cost per student in the United States showed that it costs $10,700 on average to send a child to school for 8 hours per day, 180 days per year. If you divide that by 180 days per year you get $59.44 per day. If you divide that number by 8 hours per day you get $7.43 per hour. And that doesn’t include the extracurricular activities or free time put in by teachers at home. That’s half the average price of a babysitter in the United States.

The point is that we are expecting a great deal from a school system. We want all of that for very little. No, teachers are not overpaid. They are drastically underpaid for what society expects from them.

Does class size affect learning outcomes?

The table at the top of this article shows that class sizes between good school districts and bad school districts are not necessarily all that different. Also, compared to other countries, schools in the United States have reasonable class sizes. According to an OECD report, the United States has average class sizes, almost exactly at the average of other OECD countries. However, assuming that class sizes are not the issue for failing schools would be a huge misjudgment.


There is a big difference in trying to teach twenty kids in the best schools versus 20 kids in the worst schools. Consider the issues that students in the worst schools have, especially if many of its students live in poverty.

Throughout childhood, a child growing up in poverty will be exposed to far fewer words than a child growing up in working-class or middle-class families. As they grow up their friends are also likely in the same situation, which means the words they are exposed to are often not used correctly.

Words per Week Based on Income Level for Children
Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.

This lack of exposure to words is perhaps one of the biggest impediments to learning that children growing up in poverty have. They begin life with an incredible obstacle to overcome, that children growing up in more affluent homes do not have. The system is not designed to help them catch up. They get thrown into a school system that isn’t allowed to acknowledge and address these impediments properly, so they fall behind in school and ultimately give up.

This helps to explain why the dropout rate for some of the poorest schools is as high as 95%, and it also shows why many people who do graduate do not have enough knowledge to be considered “educated.” They were passed along, grade-by-grade because schools are under pressure to do so. A teacher cannot reasonably fail every under-performing child. What would happen if one teacher did that? The children who failed would repeat the class with the same missing gaps that they started the class with. Failing the class wouldn’t address why they really failed in the first place, and the class sizes would grow to an intolerable number, filled with kids who continue to fail. It’s an impossible situation for a teacher.

Here is the sad reality. Affluent schools that could function fine with a higher student/teacher ratio actually get a lower student/teacher ratio. And schools that disparately need more teachers to address the learning gaps that accompany poverty actually have higher class sizes. It might be that a failing school really needs a student/teacher ratio of 10:1, but instead, they have 20 kids in the class, many of which desperately need extra attention and cannot get it.

This is one of the contributing factors to California’s poorer schools. According to this 2011 report, California had the highest class sizes in the nation. California also has an issue with poverty and many students speak English as a second language. So when a child who has these issues is thrown into a large class, it’s no wonder so many give up. There is simply no way they can get the attention they need to meet their needs when their classes are filled with other kids with learning gaps, as well.

Can the learning gaps that accompany poverty be closed?

Kids need to see the value of what they are learning. If they don’t have the support at home, they need to get that support from the school. But schools in poor neighborhoods do not have the resources to help that many children who need extra help.

Kids need to be stimulated to enjoy learning. But to do that requires a lot from a teacher. If a class consists of a group of kids who struggle near the bottom, providing the enriching and challenging material at their grade-level isn’t possible because they didn’t acquire the building blocks to understand the new material in the first place. This is one of the reasons standardized testing fails so badly. Teachers are under pressure to get as many as they can through the test, so they cannot slow down the curriculum to address the real needs of their students. Kids simply get left behind, which is ironic since the No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to solve that very issue.

Will performance pay or merit pay make a difference to education?

When you consider that the worst schools in the country are the ones with the least funding, and the low-funding is due to poverty, and poverty causes the problems that we illustrated above, it becomes obvious that creating a merit-based education system for failing schools is ludicrous. Performance-based-pay fails to address the real issues that cause low academic achievement. No amount of pay-for-performance law will change this fundamental fact in education.

Merit pay is a distraction from solving the real issues that kids at failing schools need to have addressed. Merit pay is based on whether or not a student passes a standardized test in certain areas at a certain time in their development. But if the child is so far behind, no amount of merit pay or punishment applied to a teacher will magically make that student successful. These are students who have missed out on millions of words over the course of their lives. They’ve fallen so far behind that they’ve completely given up on trying to keep up. Merit pay can’t fix that.

What are some ways we should consider to fix education?

We need to focus much less on standardized testing. This doesn’t mean we need to avoid it, nor should we. But standardized-test-scores shouldn’t be used for anything other than helping schools see trends and improve. Schools in different areas have different challenges. Standardized testing is often trying to compare apples to oranges. The standards or benchmarks for a child growing up in a well-to-do family and one growing up in poverty simply cannot be reached at the same ages.

Another issue with standardized testing and merit pay is that it assumes that certain parts of education are more important than others. It assumes Math is more important than Music. It assumes Reading is more important than Art. It assumes Science is more important than sports.

I’m probably going to upset some people with this next example, but please consider it.

Think about Lebron James. He’s the best basketball player, possibly ever on the planet. Do we care if he’s good at Math or not? Does it matter if his grammar is correct? He’s an icon because of basketball, and he became good at basketball for three reasons:

  • He had a natural ability
  • He had a passion for basketball
  • He practiced a lot

If you take away any of those factors, Lebron James would not be the Lebron we know today. If he never practiced basketball, no amount of natural ability would have made him the best at it. If he didn’t love the game he wouldn’t have wanted to practice like he did, which would never have amplified his natural ability.

The point? We need to let more students choose their own path in education. When you focus on improving things you are naturally weak at, you may improve and become average at them. But focus on amplifying strength, you can become an expert.

Yes, math is important. Yes, grammar is important. But most people don’t use anything above basic math in everyday life. Most adults cannot remember 99% of what they learned in Science as a student. And most people are not all that good at writing. These are skills that are important to learn, but when we make them the ultimate focus in school we end up avoiding the greater good, which is discovering the natural talents and passions of children at an early age so those talents and passions can be amplified.

I’m going to conclude with this video because I think it really nails the point about our schools. I especially love the end of the video and the Death Valley analogy.

Before you watch the video, I’d like to ask you a favor. Go on Facebook. Go on Twitter. Please share this article so others can begin thinking about the problems and real solutions that plague our country’s schools.



Why Extended Family is so Important to Childhood Development

Family Tree ConceptModern families have enormous time constraints. Nearly every family member has an unimaginable array of obligations – work, school, organizations, friends outside the family, and so on. And while this high level of activity can produce young adults who are well- connected and understand the making and keeping of appointments and time schedules, there is also something valuable that has been lost: Extended family.

When we look back in social history, we see families who are more connected to each other than to the outside world. Cousins knew each other well. Kids knew and felt comfortable talking to their grandparents. These family relationships translated into social, well-adjusted adults. Today, the normal family dynamic has become the non-normative family, with divorced parents and matriculation all over the country. Our society favors the individual over the family, with children often growing up and placing their parents or grandparents in an assisted living facilities, knowing their basic needs are taken care of by someone else. But what about their emotional needs? What needs to change in order for our children to recognize the needs of the extended family?

As a society, we are more connected and yet also less connected than ever before. Think about the way we typically interact with others today: One simple look on Facebook and we can see what our Facebook network of Friends did today, what they had for dinner, and where they visited…but we barely even interact with these people. Not closely. We don’t engage in deep one-on-one conversations over Facebook. It is similar to being a Jack-of-All- Trades, Master-of-None; we know little bits about a lot of people at the expense of really knowing a few. This problem also concerns the lack of connection to the extended family.

If the connection to your extended family sounds like an issue you are struggling with in your own life and you want to expose your children to more of your extended family, continue reading for some insights into how to foster that relationship within your own family.

Benefits of visiting grandparents often

There are many benefits to fostering a relationship between children and their grandchildren. When kids are not exposed to their grandparents and do not feel comfortable chatting with them, a valuable teacher is omitted from their life. We all learn from our mistakes, and grandparents have been around long enough to make most of them. This makes them a phenomenal source for learning, “What not to do!”

If kids are fortunate enough to have healthy, living grandparents, trying to visit them as often as possible should be a priority. Try to make visiting a grandparent a normal, scheduled event—even if they live in an assisted living facility or if they live far away.

To facilitate connecting with grandparents in nursing homes, many facilities have lunch rooms or public areas where residents can meet with family. While this might impose some constraints (it will be a fairly public venue), it does offer a chance for children and grandchildren to gather with their elders without the difficulty of transporting them. For family members with medical constraints, this can be important. Bringing a picnic lunch or a pile or board games can offer a shared experience to bond with relatives who are surely overjoyed for the company.

For more mobile family members, restaurants, community rooms, public library meeting rooms, and public parks can make great places for families to gather. These venues also work well for large family reunions, which for some families can be a necessity as the extended relatives can add up into the hundreds. No matter the difficulty, however, the connections made during these meetings are priceless.

For grandparents who live too far away to visit in person, Skype or FaceTime offers a simple way to connect. Try having a tea party over Skype, where the child and the grandparents both share a cup of tea and a cookie, or a coloring session via FaceTime. Thanks to technology, bonding over an activity together in this way can help children bond with their grandparents even if they live out of town.

Some families are also fortunate enough to have supportive, healthy, and active grandparents living close by. To build upon these close relationships, you can plan time for the children to visit their grandparent’s house or for them to come to yours. In this personal setting, families can enjoy a host of activities including sharing a meal, a game night, or even a grandparent babysitting night where the parents can enjoy a night out!

Grandparents have so much to teach. According to a survey conducted by the American Grandparents Association, 72% of grandparents “think being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.” You aren’t burdening them. You are enriching them—and they are enriching you.

Benefits of a relationship with aunts, uncles, and cousins

Beyond grandparents, many families have other extended members that they probably don’t see as much as they could. With multiple generations on Facebook now, it is easier than ever to “keep up” with family via social networking, but again, we are more connected and less connected than ever. Facebook profiles and posts will never replace actual visits.

Plan real time with aunts, uncles, and cousins. As a family, plan a vacation, go to an amusement park, plan to share a meal, or send the kids on a visit for a week with their cousins. The opportunities to stay connected to our extended family members are there. Only our habits and self-imposed barriers prevent it.

Helping children foster bond with other adults is also important. Dr. Susan Bartell, a nationally recognized child and parenting psychologist, acknowledges the benefits of a closer relationship with extended family members: “Aunts and uncles are important, because they offer kids the chance to have a close relationship with an adult who doesn’t have the same set of expectations as Mom and Dad.” Aunts and uncles may become a go-to person for kids to confide in if they don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents. Ideally, we want our kids to know they can tell us anything, but that doesn’t always happen. Involving extended family in a child’s life allows them to have another outlet.

When we expose our kids to other perspectives, we help them become their own person. There is only so much a parent can teach. A parent might be the most important person in a young child’s life, yet without extended family, a significant component in your child’s development is lost. Aunts and uncles may become a go-to person for kids to confide in if they don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents. Ideally, we want our kids to know they can tell us anything, but that doesn’t always happen. Involving extended family in a child’s life allows them to have another outlet.

A simple story about a family gathering

Family gatherings are a time for sharing memories that span generational cultures. Envision this story about a multi-generational family sharing time together over a meal at a local restaurant, exemplifying how important it is to connect the younger generation with their extended family members.

During a recent family gathering at a restaurant, the smartphones came out up and down the long table where four generations were represented. However, these devices were not separating them; rather, they were bringing them together. Pictures were taken and funny events were shared live, rather than on Facebook. It was just an informal get-together, where the four-year-old traveled from lap to lap, being exposed to one new face after another, and everyone at the table shared impromptu stories.

During the dinner, two of the middle-aged sisters tried to resurrect the sibling rivalry which had once existed between them. “He’s LOOKING at me, Mom,” the daughter joked when her brother wouldn’t stop staring. Responding to the quip, the great-grandmother in the party smiled and said, “Do I need to get out the duct tape and make a line between your seats?” Everyone laughed at the inside joke.

Further down the table, the grandfather reminded a newly-adult son to take off his hat inside. The great-grandmother passed a napkin to the daughter (who is also now a grandmother) to wipe the four-year-old’s face, then turned to look at a Facebook post on her twelve-year-old granddaughter’s phone. The visiting daughter-in-law was snapping pictures on her smartphone.

The point: A lot was going on. It was a friendly, relaxed event where sharing and caring for each other were the examples being set. A sense of passing from one stage of growth to another were
 clearly seen among the generations. And the whole event was spawned because one family decided to travel into town from out-of-state and decided it was worthwhile to visit.

Then, it became a memory.

Families offering a connection to history

Another great way to interact and connect with extended family members, particularly those in older generations, is to gather together and share or record memories. These conversations are priceless, as the memories and wisdom carried by older family members will one day be gone.

For example, consider memories of the infamous terrorist attack on 9/11. For Americans present on September 11th, 2001, the shock and disbelief of that moment will brand that morning in our minds forever. However, one day soon, many Americans will not have vivid memories of the day. Once, a teacher who had gotten into the habit of asking her college classes, “Where were you on the morning of September 11th, 2001?” realized she was going to have to take that question out of her curriculum plans when one young lady raised her hand and said, “I think I was in Kindergarten. And they sent us all home for the day.”

Soon, it will be our responsibility to share the memories of these historical events with our children and grandchildren, who are growing up in a world that is undoubtedly changed by these events. In a similar way, we need to record the memories of our grandparents and other older relatives to hear their experiences with and perspective on events like Pearl Harbor, the Vietnam War, former Presidential elections…the list goes on. Personal stories and family memories are also important to hear and record, as their memories of family life are invaluable. Talk to these elders and hear what they have to say. Their responses could influence the history—and the future–of your family.

Family connections improve parental support in times of crisis

Families who have relationships with extended family members also thrive in times crisis because of their familial connections, a fact that undoubtedly contributes to their children’s development and emotional well-being. According to a 2011 study conducted by Cangrands, a national kinship support network for extended family caring for children in Canada, family relationships are integral to supporting parents in times of personal, familial, or economic crisis. Grandparents often become a family’s first source of support during an emergency, offering financial support, care giving, or even advice With many parents reporting that they regularly turn to their mother or mother-in-law for advice or information about child development and parenting, having a strong connection to extended family is essential (Cangrands, 2011).

Establishing social bonds with extended family members not only allows parents and children to develop close connections to these family members, but it also provides a close source of support in times of crisis. Children will naturally benefit from this reliance on family members when their family is in need of assistance.

Tips for staying in touch with extended family

Ideally, try to visit frequently. If family-members happen to live nearby, make it a priority to see them. Make it a habit and an expectation to visit for monthly dinners or other outings so that kids know seeing their family members is a priority. Figure out a way to make it fun for everyone. Try a new restaurant together, or go explore a park. Make family time enjoyable so the experiences are positive for everyone.

Vacation together. Vacationing together as an extended family is easier than ever. AirBNB, VRBO, and other websites allow users to rent rooms or even entire houses for vacations and have opened up a world of vacationing that wasn’t available before. We can plan memorable vacations with extended family and even split the cost of doing so. For everyone involved, the vacation will surely be an unforgettable experience. When you really think about childhood memories, you likely are able to recall several that involve places you vacationed. Doing this with extended family is a fantastic way to connect!

Use technology to stay connected. When face-to-face gatherings are not possible, email, social media, and VOIP–in various flavors–provide opportunities to share joys, triumphs, disappointments, sorrows, and even plain, ordinary day-to-day living. With modern technology, communication with family members is easily accessible. No more waiting for weeks for a letter to make its way across the Atlantic or over land from one coast to the other. In this hyper-connected age, children have a hard time imagining what it would be like to be limited to a phone that is attached to a wall, let alone one that can be listened in on by every aunt and cousin and neighbor on the local party line. Taking advantage of technology can strengthen the connection and bond between extended family members. Even with obstacles or disadvantages to using technology, it is important to make being connected to our extended family a priority, and technology is a great tool to utilize.

Take lots of photos. Pictures get processed by our brains about 1000 times faster than text. Photos evoke emotions, inspiring thoughts and memories about the event captured. Beyond sharing photos with extended family members, a thoughtful way to stay connected would be to create an online photo page that everyone can access and share their photos. This can be a fantastic way to stay connected and share memories with each other.

Perhaps in today’s society, we are so inundated with our own lives to realize how disconnected we have become from our extended family members. In spite of the difficulties, we should strive to stay connected with our extended family and make their relationships more of a priority. Only good things can come of it!


Anderson, Jeff. “10 Reasons Grandparents Matter More than Ever.” 10 Reasons Grandparents Matter More than Ever. A Place For Mom: Connecting Families to Senior Care, 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 May 2016. <>.

Durham Health Connection. “Parents & Family: Extended Family.” Introduction to the Roles of Extended Family (n.d.): n. pag.Parenting and Child Development. Region of Durham. Web. 19 May 2016. <>.

Koutsky, Judy. “11 Parents Reveal Why Their Kids Can’t Do Without Aunts & Uncles.” P&G Everyday. Proctor & Gamble, n.d. Web. 19 May 2016. <>.