February 27, 2010

Fun in a Tough Economy

Last night as we watched TV and the third commercial in a row said, "In these hard times," or "In this economy," my husband looked at me and said, "I'm so tired of hearing about the economy."

I have to agree.  I'm tired of thinking about it and worrying about it.  I'm tired of people trying to sell me something to give me the illusion of security.  I'm tired of people trying to wring my last pennies out of me, or trying to tell me where I should spend them.  I'm tired of seeing how it has affected many people that I know and love.

But at least I understand what's going on.  It makes sense to me, and I can see the broad scope of influence the tough economy has had.  And that isn't necessarily true of kids.

February 26, 2010

Behaviors your Kids Will Imitate

Kids learn by example.  It's a simple fact of life.  When they see you writing thank you notes for gifts, driving defensively, keeping your cool under pressure, or problem solving calmly with your spouse, they learn.  They can see a positive way to deal with the situation in question; and when they see others behaving poorly, they'll think, "I know how to do that better."

Unfortunately, no parent is perfect.  You're not going to do everything just right, all the time, and that means that sometimes your kids are going to see a bad example in your behavior.  What can you do?  First and foremost: talk.  If you've realized you've made a mistake, talk to your kids and let them know that you did something wrong.  This turns a bad example into a good one: your child sees you analyze your own behavior and take steps to fix what's wrong.

Here are some behaviors to watch out for in yourself or your kids.  If your kids have any of these behaviors, ask yourself where they might have learned them.  And if it's you...take responsibility!

February 25, 2010

Picking the Perfect Preschool

Choosing the right preschool for your child can be a daunting task.  This may be your child's first experience with care outside your home, and will certainly be their first school experience.  It is important to get off on the right foot.  Yet there are so many programs to choose from, and even within a school, each teacher has their own energy and classroom philosophy.  What can a parent look for to guide them towards the right school?

There are obvious issues such as safety and cleanliness, student-to-teacher ratios, travel distance and cost.  But I think that parents also need to seriously consider the way their children are taught, and perhaps take the road that is currently less traveled: a preschool curriculum that focuses on play.

February 22, 2010

How to Keep Kids Interested in Reading

Reading and learning to enjoy reading are some of the most important skills a child can take away from elementary school.  Holding on to an enjoyment of reading is vital to a child's success in high school and beyond to college and career.  Reading is a key to relaxation, learning and pleasure for many adults, and I don't think anyone doubts its value.  So how can parents and teachers keep kids interested, especially during late elementary school?

February 19, 2010

Pennsylvania School Allegedly Spies on Students At Home

A school in the Lower Merion School District of Pennsylvania has been accused of activating webcams on the laptops issued to students while the students were at home.  A sophomore student at the school became aware of the surveillance when he was called to the principal's office and told he had been engaging in "improper behavior" in his home.  The principal proceeded to show a photo snapped on the webcam as evidence.  A law suit has, understandably, been filed.

This case is truly shocking, and the implications are enormous.  I know of many businesses and schools that have issued laptops to students, faculty or employees, and I honestly don't want to think about the fact that this technology is available to any immoral authority figure that wants to use it.

February 18, 2010

Soda Tax Proposed

Yes, you read correctly.  A tax on soda.  Politicians are comparing soda to the "Big Tobacco" of old, pinning the blame for the obesity and diabetes epidemics on soda.  They draw parallels between the youth driven advertising and health problems in both.

Their plan includes: eliminating soda and candy from schools; placing a tax on soda and other sugared beverages to increase their price significantly; requiring tobacco-inspired warning labels about the sugar and calorie content; and creating a marketing campaign to educate the public on the evils of high sugar consumption.

Officials say that sugar consumption is much higher than it should be, which I don't think anyone can deny.  They say that part of the problem is the relative cheapness of unhealthy food and the relative expense of healthy food, like fresh fruits and vegetables.  They say that the proposed taxes could be used to subsidize fruits and vegetables, fund their marketing campaign and pay for health and nutrition classes in public schools.

February 17, 2010

The Article Every Expecting Parent Must Read

This article absolutely blew me away.  It is about the heel prick that is commonly done minutes after the birth of a baby, and is meant to test for genetic disorders.  You can read the article here.

Basically, I have never thought too deeply about this simple test or weighed its pros and cons.  Its detractors claim that it allows the government to maintain genetic information on the child; that it involuntarily includes parent and child in genetic research; and that it may lead to future discrimination by a theoretical insurance company, if a problematic gene is discovered.

Ok, those could be some significant problems, especially for the paranoid.  And nobody wants to hear their newborn cry when their heel is pricked.  So what's the benefit, and why am I still for it?

February 11, 2010

For Kids, Keep the Romance Out of Valentine's Day

We all remember exchanging cards with our classmates at school on Valentine's Day.  I grew up after the implementation of the "fairness rule:" if you give something to one, you must give it to all.  And I think it's a good rule.  It takes away the chance of one child being snubbed by the class; how many cards you got can't be made a popularity contest; and it helps teach children to be inclusive and sensitive to the feelings of others.  Plus, a big benefit to me, it takes some of the romance out of Valentine's Day.

February 10, 2010

Telling Kids What to Do is Hard

One piece of advice I have read again and again is that for the toddler and preschool age groups, telling them what to do is much more effective than asking.  This is because children of these ages hear the rhetorical "Will you please pick up your toys?" as an actual question.  They think you're giving them the option to say either yes or no.  Not very surprisingly, the finer points of polite wording have not been learned yet.

I know this is good advice; I've even seen it in action as a substitute teacher.  But for me, it is difficult advice to follow.

February 8, 2010

Boy Almost Suspended Over Lego Gun

I came across this little gem of a story a few days ago: a 9 year-old boy narrowly avoided suspension after he and some friends brought some Lego toys to school and his Lego man had a gun.  Give me a break.

This is absolutely ridiculous!  The boys were even sharing the toys at an appropriate time: during lunch at the cafeteria table.  Apparently the threat of suspension was removed after a meeting with the boy's mother, which isn't all that surprising; I hope she gave that principal a piece of her mind.  The mother was even quoted as being confused why her child was targeted: another boy had a Lego man that was brandishing an axe.

February 5, 2010

Will Kids Imitate Adults Behaving Badly?

People who live in a haze of self-importance will do some truly shocking things in public purely out of feeling entitled.  And, as you may suspect if you have read my blog before, I have a story of such a self-important individual.

Unfortunately, the person I observed had a child with them.  That always makes it worse.  Whenever I see adults behaving badly, I glance around for children.  Will seeing adults behave poorly affect them?  Will it make them think being rude is ok?  I think I have an answer.

February 4, 2010

Education Optimism

As a substitute teacher, I have a peek inside a variety of schools and teaching methods, as well as age groups of children.  Sometimes the teacher remains in the room for a while after I arrive, and at such times, I try to glean as much information as possible by watching them: how they deal with the children, which students are trustworthy, which ones whine or instigate trouble, what the discipline system is like, what the feel of the classroom is.

Even a five minute observation tells me a lot about a teacher and their classroom.  Often, I critique internally whether I agree with the teacher's methods, tone and general manner with the class.  But sometimes, on a rare, pleasant occasion, I find myself becoming a student of the teacher's method, an avid observer of the details, in awe of the smooth way a classroom can be run by a good teacher.  I was in such a classroom yesterday.

February 2, 2010

Fight the Extra-Curricular Avalanche

It's hard to find the balance these days with extra-curricular activities. It seems like everyone who's anyone has had their kids playing soccer, violin, piano and baseball or softball, not to mention ballet, gymnastics, karate, football, basketball, voice, guitar and other instruments. And that's not taking into account some of the other unique activities kids are trying, everything from golf to cooking lessons to raising show dogs.

So what's a parent, or a kid, to do?  Hit the link to check out the tips.

February 1, 2010

Why You Should Get Rid of Antibacterial Soap

In our society right now, there is a strong emphasis (and capitalization) on a broad fear of germs.  More and more schools and parents are teaching proper hand-washing procedures, and that's great.  But we need to stop doing it with antibacterial soaps!  

I know, they kill 99% of germs, and reading that on the label makes everyone feel safer and cleaner.  But we don't actually need them.  In fact, by using them we're making the germs worse.