Month: November 2016

Character Skills

In 2013, a journalist named Paul Tough wrote a book called “How Children Succeed” that became a bestseller (rare for books about education) and a national phenomenon. The book focuses on a simple question: “what are the skills that children need to be successful, particularly in college?”

Tough summarizes the best current research in Education, Cognitive Development, Developmental Psychology and Youth Development. The conclusion of the research was unexpected and remarkable and is as follows:

We, as a society, have placed too much emphasis on the “cognitive theory” that holds that success in college is a function of IQ, academic skills and SAT scores. These measurements have some relationship to collegiate success, but not as much as certain “non-cognitive skills”, including grit, self-control, optimism and gratitude. Tough also calls these “character skills”.

In short, a student with self-control, grit and optimism is more likely to graduate from college than a student with high IQ or top SAT scores.

The research is essentially indisputable and leads us to a tricky question: if these are the most important skills, then how do we foster them in our children?

The good news is that these “character skills” are, in fact, skills and not inherited attributes. Children can develop grit, learn self-control and cultivate optimism.

Our traditional education system, however, is not designed to produce these outcomes. While great teachers can help with some of these skills, teachers are limited. They only get a few hours a week with students. More importantly, they are evaluated on how they teach specific knowledge (math and reading) and not on character. Typically, we manage what we measure. As a result, schools spend most of their time and effort on academic skills and not on character skills.

American Seafarers, on the other hand, focuses on character skills 16 hours a day. In fact, it is inherent in our seafaring environment. We focus on the “4 Rs” of Responsibility, Respect, Reaching Out, and Reasonable Risks.

I have had several conversations with Paul Tough about summer programs and developing character. He has led me to some of the researchers that he encountered doing his research. We are talking with them about ways to make American Seafarers the most effective summer sailing program in the nation for teaching and growing character in our children!

Homesick and Happy

Michael Thompson and Summer Camp

Dr. Michael Thompson is one of the leading experts in Youth Development. He has written 7 books on youth, including the New York Times bestseller “Raising Cain,” which was made into a special on PBS and led to appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America and Oprah.

His most recent work is called “Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child.” It is the best book I have read about the benefits of summer camp for children.

Dr. Thompson has a wonderful sense of humor and a deep appreciation for parents. He is deeply sympathetic to the challenges of parenting and strives to help parents raise the best children they can.

Early in “Homesick and Happy” he makes an interesting observation. He notes that whenever parents ask for advice, they always ask some version of the same question: “what else should I be doing?” He notes that parents always assume that they should be doing more for their child. He, however, notes that children can benefit in important ways from parents occasionally doing less.

For example, if parents want their children to learn to deal with challenges and the occasional failure, they must be willing to let their children occasionally struggle and fail.

Specifically, he describes 8 things “that parents cannot do for their children.” I know this list has informed our thoughts about our own children.

  1. We cannot make our children happy.
  2. We cannot give our children high self-esteem.
  3. We cannot make friends for our children or micromanage their friendships.
  4. We cannot successfully double as our child’s agent, manager or coach.
  5. We cannot create the “second family” for which our child yearns in order to facilitate his or her growth.
  6. It is increasingly apparent that we cannot compete with or limit our children’s total immersion in the online, digital and social media realms.
  7. We cannot keep our children perfectly safe, but we can drive them crazy trying.
  8. We cannot make our children independent.

These are important parenting goals, but we parents cannot control them. We need partners that love our children and share our goals.

We at American Seafarers want to be your partner in this wonderful challenge. Please feel free to call us with any questions about how attending our summer program can help facilitate the growth of your child!

Keystone Capital Project Fund Raising almost there

Hello friends, supporters and fellow seafarers,

I have pretty much just put the finishing touches on our fundraising page on I just have to wait until a few more ducks are in a row, and I will be launching the fundraiser. I will be posting an event on for when the launch will be schedule to begin as soon as I am sure everything is ready and tested.

If you aren’t sure what I am talking about, please check out our website American Seafarers for all about the details of our program, our capital project and our fundraiser.

As many people may or may not know, typically fundraisers are most successful when an initial level of financial support is shown early in the campaign. So to my friends, I am asking you, if you plan to give when the campaign is launched, please do so early. It helps encourage those who are still deciding to give and how much to give.

If you already plan on giving, please send me a note at with your your pledge commitment. I will let you know as soon as the portal is open and ready for your pledge.

Please say tuned for updates and notices because once this ball is rolling I am hoping it will roll fast.

Filing for 501(c)(3) Not for Profit Status

We have taken the next necessary step to making American Seafarers a reality. Today marks the day that we completed and sent off all the documents required for incorporating the fund raising side of American Seafarers allowing us to raise funds for our principle Capital Project, “Building Schooner Escapade”, as well as allowing us to begin raising scholarship funds so that every kid can go no matter what their financial situation might be.

We are very happy to have taken this next step and look forward to updating the American Seafarer community and our supporters.

Although we are not quite ready to receive donations, we would be very happy to receive your pledge commitment. Please send an email with your pledge to to inform us of your pledge. Please review the American Seafarers Fund pages to review Fund Raising Program, Recommended Donation Levels and the fundraising platforms we will be leveraging.

As always, please take the time to Share and Like our American Seafarers Facebook page to help us get the word out that our program is closer to becoming a reality.

American Seafarers and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

 In 2002, some of the leading employers and educators in the US realized that high school and college graduates were entering the workforce with a significant deficiency in some critical skills.

These groups (which includes Apple, AT&T, Intel, Ford, PBS, the Children’s Television Workshop and Cisco) decided to do something about it. They came together to form the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21). The purpose of the partnership was simple:

  • Determine what skills are the most important for success after school.
  • Identify where there are deficits among recent graduates.
  • Develop plans to address these skill deficits.

Over the years, they have conducted multiple surveys and created reports that have been highly influential. In fact, Singapore completely changed their educational curriculum after reading one of their reports – and this was AFTERthey were named one of the top 3 education systems in the world!

The conclusions are powerful and surprising. In particular, the “skills critical to success” were not what most people would anticipate. The most important skills are not math, science or reading. Instead, they are as follows:

  1. Oral communication
  2. Collaboration
  3. Work ethic
  4. Written communication
  5. Critical thinking

Simply put, this is a love letter to summer programs. With the exception of written communication, I believe that a good summer program fosters these skills better than even the best schools. Oral communication and collaboration are difficult skills to teach in a classroom. When teachers need to teach algebra or verb conjugation, they must focus on transferring their academic knowledge to students, not creating active collaborative environments.

At American Seafarers, we focus on developing these skills. Every day, we work on their communication and collaboration skills – heck, that is the essence of a good seafaring team dynamic. On their own they will work on these skills 16 hours a day.

Few parents of middle and high school children worry about the workplace, but we think it is exciting to think that American Seafarers is not just fun, but also a rich learning environment.