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Going for the Goal 

On a recent Sunday morning, our family of four gathered for a ritual that provides much-needed structure to our lives: the weekly house meeting.

My partner, Ann-Elise, and I started having house meetings after moving in together 14 years ago. On Sunday nights, we'd sit down and talk about things like chores, schedules, finances and goals. Having a regular check-in helped us stay focused on our priorities and kept us from nagging each other all week long. If Ann-Elise didn't like how I was putting away the dishes, for example, we'd talk about it at the house meeting.

When our kids were infants and toddlers, we let go of the routine for a while. We met whenever we could manage it, which wasn't often.

But now that Graham and Ivy are 7 and 5, they're able to add items to the agenda and participate in a meaningful discussion — for 20 minutes or so, anyway. Their recent agenda items have included "weekend playdates," "buying a sucker fish" and a "family LEGO battle." Ann-Elise and I still go into executive session to discuss finances and scheduling.

We take notes at our meetings, in part to stay organized, but also to document the progress we've made. Flipping through those pages, we can see how we worked through problems such as digging out of debt and getting our old house ready to sell.

I was thinking about our family's approach to challenges as I edited our Kids VT feature stories this month. One introduces Vermonters to our new Secretary of Education, Rebecca Holcombe; she takes the helm at the Agency of Ed in January.

In "Head of the Classes", Holcombe offers some insight into who she is — her own educational path was fairly unusual — and how she'll approach controversial issues such as school consolidation, extending the academic year, and universal preschool.

Another feature story this month, "Medal Mania", focuses on some of the young Vermont athletes who hope to compete in February's 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, or who are training for the 2018 games in South Korea. All of them share a dream and have committed themselves to making it a reality. We found their stories of perseverance and determination inspiring, and hope you will, too.

I know I'll be taking some time during these two months to reflect on the past year and make plans for the new one; goals for 2014 will likely appear on an upcoming house-meeting agenda.

How does your family prepare for the future? Let us know. We always enjoy hearing from you.

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