These days, a common theme in Middle School curriculum is the power of conviction. Students are taught to advocate for themselves and to use their voices and written words to articulate their values, beliefs and dreams.
Recently we learned about an eighth grade assignment at The Potomac School in McLean Virginia where each student was asked to write an essay similar to the popular NPR This I Believe  essay collection. The NPR program is “based on a 1950s radio program of the same name, Americans from all walks of life share the personal philosophies and core values that guide their daily lives”. The eighth graders were asked to write about a core value – something they believe in.
It’s no surprise that the students chose topics including achieving world peace, feeding and sheltering the homeless, living with high moral standards, and always giving 100 percent. However, one essay about the importance of the family routine was brought to our attention and was particularly meaningful to us at Let’s Dish!
The student’s essay entitled “I Believe in Family Dinner” really hit home for many of us. At Let’s Dish!, we’ve referenced studies about the importance of family dinner from the adult point of view. (http://thedishblog.com/2008/01/08/introducing-family-matters-the-importance-of-family-dinner/ ) We discuss the fact that children of families that eat dinner together regularly are less likely to have problems with alcohol and substance abuse. We have learned that children who eat dinner with their families are less like to develop eating disorders and we know that these same children score higher on standardized tests. However, this is the first time we have heard the child’s point of view about the importance of family dinner.
The student wrote about how she enjoys coming together at the end of the day because it makes her family more aware of each other’s schedules, achievements and stresses. She wrote that the time at the dinner table makes her family closer because of shared anecdotes and laughter. Most importantly, she wrote that over time she has come to learn that the dinner table is a safe place to raise her fears and concerns about absolutely anything. She wrote:
I also believe that because I have been having dinner with my family most nights since I was young, it has become a safe place for me. It is where we go to celebrate the happy things in life such as birthdays, victories, or good grades, but it also is where we are all together during the hard times. It has become a place where we can comfort each other by just being there. I feel comfortable when my family is sitting around the kitchen table because I know that no matter what I say, they are all there for me. Whenever someone in my family is feeling down, the dinner table is where they feel loved and their sadness goes away.
Wow! What amazing insight from a 13-year-old. We love this story and we really love knowing that Let’s Dish! is a part of so many family dinners in the area.