Kids in this area went back to school a few weeks ago, and already parents are complaining about what they’re bringing home. No, not the homework–the germs. Coughing, sneezing, crud, fevers, bellyaches. My house has not been immune.

But what else do kids bring home from school, especially in the first weeks of a new academic year? Year after year, I also see excitement, enthusiasm, hunger for learning. Granted, those qualities tend to become buried under the weight of homework and inclement weather so that by Thanksgiving they have dissipated. Even so, I DO catch a glimpse of them, however fleeting.

As parents–better yet, as MENTORS–we could better position our kids for success if we would recognize the positive seeds sown at the beginning of the school year and nurture them. Take interest, cultivate them, watch them grow. A teacher requires your middle schooler to bring a free-read book to class–any kind of book he wants? Jump on that! Have him make a list of topics and titles that interest him–not things that interest you–and keep those books coming, whether from the library or your local bookstore. Better yet, read them along with him and give yourselves a starting point for discussion. Your grade schooler groans when learning word stems? Nothing drills them into her memory like making ridiculous sentences from them–the weirder and grosser, the better.

Don’t worry; I haven’t turned this into a so-called “Mommy Blog.” Back-to-school just serves as my springboard to broader application for any mentoring situation. All I’m saying is that you should find the sparks and fan the flame. Forget the germs; you can’t do much about those. Make your enthusiasm just as virulent.

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