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In this space, SchoolFamily.com brings you the expertise, opinions, and thoughts from a variety of guest bloggers. Please feel free to comment on each of their blog posts. If you have someone you'd like to see featured in this space, please email editor@schoolfamily.com.

Winter’s Coming: 10 Healthy Hacks for Parents and Kids

Winter gives us a choice: We can hunker down and ride it out, or we can embrace it! Our friends at Hyland’s understand the importance of keeping kids active and eating well so they stay healthy. And we wanted to share our healthy hacks—simple and easy ideas to keep kids healthy all winter long.

Keep Everyone Active!

Bundle the kids up and go exploring. It’s important to invest in good outdoor gear so kids stay comfortable, but that can be expensive! We’ve had good luck at secondhand stores or mom-to-mom online sites. - Kathryn

If the kids can get outside almost every day, I think it helps them stay healthy and strong (and Mom and Dad, too). Maybe it’s taking the dog for a walk as a family or maybe it’s raking leaves and jumping in them. Sometimes it’s just a walk around the neighborhood to see if you can spot something new or different. Really, it’s anything to get outside for a little bit each day. - Barb

When outside, try activities that will keep kids engaged. I have two girls who weren’t super active. So we would do things like a scavenger hunt for leaves, pinecones, acorns, and small rocks, and “painting” snow using colored water in spray bottles. - Rose

Move Indoors

We like getting the parents and kids dancing together—crank up the tunes, lower the lights, and show your kids that you still have the moves. Kids get their bodies moving and have a good laugh at the same time. - Leslie

We’ve done indoor snowball fights using cotton balls. It’s fun to do this to music—something upbeat for the full-on “fight,” followed by a slow, soothing song so children can wind down. - Rose

Have Fun With Food

To encourage my kids to get their daily dose of vitamins in the winter, we stick googly eyes on everything, from bananas and clementines to cucumbers! - Kerri

Load up on vitamins with a healthy smoothie. Since good fresh fruit is hard to come by in the winter, use frozen instead. The quality is good for a smoothie and the cost of frozen fruit is cheaper. - Leslie

Be a Stickler for Hygiene

Wash your hands when you come in the house. - Holly

Keep a hand sanitizer right next to the tissues to help kids remember to use it. - Leslie

We attach an empty tissue box to a full one with a rubber band. We’ve taught our kids to discard used tissues in the empty box. - Shannon

Be Prepared

We do everything we can to stay healthy but I also know the kids will inevitably come down with a fever at some point over the winter. Running out to the pharmacy at midnight in my pajamas isn’t good for my physical or mental health, so now I prepare. I keep medication for fevers and coughs at the ready. I also put a jar of applesauce with it as that’s how we mix it for the kids. - Kathryn

As a mom, I know my best attempts at keeping my kids healthy may not be enough. I stock up early on a few homeopathic remedies for cold and flu with natural ingredients. Our friends at Hyland’s have remedies designed just for kids: Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ʼn Mucus, Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ʼn Cough, and Hyland’s 4 Kids Complete Cold ʼn Flu for the winter seasons. - Laura

Here are a few extra tips from our SchoolFamily moms!

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Raising Responsible Digital Citizens: It Takes a Community

by Lynette Owens

In today’s world, kids are using electronic devices before they are reading and writing—which is both exciting and frightening for parents and communities. It seems that with every year that passes, kids are receiving their first cell phone, tablet, or other electronic device at younger and younger ages. As this trend continues, it’s more important than ever to teach kids to use these devices responsibly and become good digital citizens. As well, as these devices leave home and go with kids to classrooms and play dates, it becomes essential that communities work together to teach and promote proper use, respect, and responsibility online.

But what exactly is digital citizenship? It is “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use.” Digital citizenship involves not only using technology and devices appropriately, but also being responsible with all that comes with them, from social media access to Internet searches.

Community Members’ Roles

Helping kids be good digital citizens is no small task; that is why entire communities—parents, teachers, coaches, and other community members—must work together to model and encourage it. From a child in kindergarten getting online for the first time, to a senior in high school getting online for the zillionth time, we all have a role in beginning and continuing conversations about what it means to be good digital citizens.

  • Parents and guardians: In most cases, this is the group that introduces kids to technology for the first time. Families make different choices about when and what their kids can access at young ages, but they should do so with eyes wide open. Parents should use the devices and apps that their kids use, share stories and advice with other parents, and, most important, talk to their kids about what it means to use the Internet safely, responsibly, and wisely. They should have this first discussion when their kids are at a young age and keep the communication going.
  • Schools: As technology’s role in schools and classrooms continues to increase, so does the importance of teaching digital citizenship. If schools require students to use Internet-connected devices and online services for schoolwork and in collaborative ways, they should also provide guidance on appropriate use, both when the kids are in school and elsewhere (home, library, a friend’s house). Ideally, these messages are reinforced by the same messages kids are receiving from their parents.
  • Law and government officials: Access to the Internet and technology isn’t a right, but a privilege. For this reason, it is important that both law and government officials come together to not only create but enforce policies related to digital citizenship. Additionally, these policies should be promoted and discussed with members of the community so that everyone can learn to practice good digital citizenship.


Every group in a community plays a role teaching or role-modeling digital citizenship, whether by deliberate action or simply by the way we set examples. By working together, we can ensure the messages of what it means to be great at being online will be reinforced, wherever kids are, so that when they are out on their own, they can make great decisions that will help them thrive both on and offline.

Lynette Owens is the founder and global director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families (ISKF) program. A mom of two school-age children, Lynette established the ISKF program in 2008 to help extend the company’s vision of making a world safe for the exchange of digital information to the world’s youngest citizens. The program, active in 19 countries, helps kids, families, and schools become safe, responsible, and successful users of technology. Follow Lynette on Twitter @lynettetowens or read her blog: internetsafety.trendmicro.com

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Does Learning an Instrument Help Learning?

by Kathryn Lagden

A couple of weeks ago we shared this fun fact on Facebook:

20% of kids learn to play music. 70% of adults wish they had.

It obviously resonated with folks as it generated a lot of “shares” and discussion, myself included. As a mom to a creative 6-year-old who loves to dance and sing, I’ve been thinking about music lessons and if/when we should introduce them. My own experience includes 10 years of violin lessons starting when I was 8. There were definitely times I’d have happily quit, but I’m so thankful I was forced encouraged to persevere. My musical ability is mediocre at best, but it opened the door to many opportunities over the years. And how awesome is it that now, as a parent, I can plunk out the tune to “Twinkle, Twinkle” on whatever plastic and tinny instrument is at hand.

 

But does learning an instrument help learning? I was curious, so I did some googling and found these articles interesting. 

 

6 Benefits of Music Lessons 

Music Lessons Help Children’s Learning 

Musical Training ‘Can Improve Language and Reading’ 

This Is How Music Can Change Your Brain (I really like this one as it talks about the importance of kids being actively interested and engaged)

 

This video (just under 5 minutes) from Anita Collins is well worth a watch, as it shows exactly what’s happening in the brain as you listen to music and how that changes when you play music.

 

I am going to encourage my oldest to think about playing an instrument but won’t push it too hard just yet. At the very least I’m hoping he doesn’t choose the violin as even now, 30 years later, I can recall the months of screeching that must be endured to learn the basics.

 

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5 Quick Tips: Staying Connected During Middle School

Staying involved in what is going on with your middle schooler is a tricky endeavor. She wants more freedom and you want to give it to her, but at the same time you don’t want to be completely cut off from her school life.

 

But there’s no need to toss your hands up and assume it’s a lost cause. We have several ways for you to stay involved (without your child thinking you’re being a nag).

 

1. Connect with your child’s teacher so you understand what’s expected 

2. Go to school meetings and events 

3. Volunteer to help out behind the scenes 

4. Volunteer to drive kids to clubs or sports competitions 

5. Post a family calendar to highlight everyone’s activities

 

We have lots more resources to help. Check out:

 

10 Tips for Middle School Parents

 

Moving Up to Middle School

 

College Prep Guide: Middle School

 

Help Middle Schoolers Manage Their Homework 

 

Middle and High School: Helping Teens Solve Their Own Problems 

 

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Easing the Back-to-School Transition for Preschool Siblings

by Kathryn Lagden

My 6-year-old left the safety of the “kindie pen” and walked into grade 1 with confidence and ease. Back- to-school transition handled. But it wasn’t quite so easy for my feisty two-and-a-half-year-old who is desperate to go to school with his “big bruvva.”

I’m scrambling to pull together a few ideas to help him adjust and feel included in the back-to-school excitement over the next couple of weeks. Here’s what I’m thinking:

Pack a backpack: Part of our morning routine is getting everyone’s bag packed with all the necessary gear for the day. I’ve found a small backpack for my little guy and created a spot for it in the front hall. When everyone else is packing up, we’ll ask him to put his snack and hat inside. He can carry it when we drop off his brother after, to wherever he’s spending the day (daycare, Grandma, Nana).

Label stuff: I’ve never met a 2-year-old who doesn’t like stickers. It’s easy-peasy to get out the tape and markers and let him label his gear (and likely various pieces of furniture and body parts).

Close the school day: My school kid is pretty proud of his “agenda” that has to be signed each night. It’s still early days (only about a week in), but he carefully places it on the counter when he gets home. Daycare is only part-time, but to include my younger son I think we’ll start keeping the slips of paper they fill out detailing what he ate and when he napped so he can put them with the agenda.

Try a name change: Instead of “school” and “daycare,” we’ve started talking about “grade school” and “daycare school.” It seems almost too simplistic, but I tried it out this morning and my 2-year-old beamed.

I’m thrilled with how easily my school kid started 1st grade, but I’m quickly realizing some of the time and attention I put on helping him transition would have been better spent preparing my preschooler. Hopefully these quick hit ideas will help him along now, and also encourage his own independence which can only help when it’s *finally* time for him to enter the schoolyard.

Any other ideas or experience? I'd love to hear them.

Kathryn Lagden is vice president, digital strategy at School Family Media, SchoolFamily.com's parent company. She lives in the greater Toronto area with her family.

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5 Quick Tips: Helping When Your Child Isn't Fitting In

We all want our kids to have friends and enjoy going to school every day. When that doesn’t happen, our hearts break and all we want to do is make things better for them.

Before you do anything, take a moment and read these quick tips to help get you through this tough time.

1. Empathize, but don’t overreact 

2. Get the facts before taking action 

3. Respect your child’s personality 

4. Offer guidance on how to pick up on social cues from others  

5. Seek help if problem persists 

 

We have lots more resources to help. Check out:

Help Your Child Adjust Socially 

Social Development by Grade Level 

Bullying: How Parents Can Fight Back

Help Your Daughter Deal With "Mean Girls"

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Different Kinds of Smart

by Elizabeth S. Leaver

At some point not too long ago, a piece along the lines of “see that silent mom who isn’t really participating while everyone else is talking about her child’s achievements” made the rounds on social media. It was a bit painful to read, because that mom is me.

It’s not because I’m not proud of my son. I am. It’s because he doesn’t, at 17, always meet the generic measures of success for his age. He’s an average, not particularly motivated student. He’s not an athlete. And despite society’s allegedly growing recognition of kids’ different strengths and abilities, I don’t always see much evidence of a true shift in perception of what makes a child smart, or brag-worthy, beyond academic success and being good at sports.

My own story couldn’t have been more different. I was a highly self-motivated student whose parents never had to remind me to do my homework or study. I had the grades to match, and my report cards were an enormous source of pride for my parents. I constantly overheard, and was told, that I was smart.

Yet as time has gone on and my son has grown, I’ve realized that that type of success didn’t actually make me “smarter” than he is. I was simply good at school, the way another person might be good at singing. And because I was good at it, it wasn’t hard for me to be “successful” at it, for the most part. As such, I’ve come to feel that tying that adjective—“smart”— to kids’ academic lives alone does them a true disservice. What if kids were all judged by another single measure, like, for example, their ability to paint? How many people would be considered “smart” if that was the gauge? (I certainly wouldn’t have.)

Where I sometimes struggled outside of the classroom, my son is socially capable in ways I wasn’t until I was much older. He’s quick-witted and well-spoken. He’s a fair and kind listener to his friends—I can see turning to him for insight and advice in the not-too-distant future. He is able to put voice to his feelings in a way many grown men cannot. He’s a talented, and largely self-taught, musician. And these are just a few of the things he is much smarter at than I was.

Academic achievement is certainly worthy, and I don’t wish I had come of age differently; I’m proud to think back on my hard work, and I think kids who work hard in school do deserve to feel proud. But all kids, all people, have strengths that should be celebrated. My son is every bit as smart as I was—whatever may have been on our report cards.

Elizabeth S. Leaver is a senior editor at School Family Media, SchoolFamily.com's parent company. She lives in the greater Boston area with her family.

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5 Quick Tips To Help Your Child With Homework

Is it possible that as parents we may actually dread homework more than our kids? Well…don’t answer that out loud.

We are here to help make this year different! Just focus on these 5 quick tips and you’ll see that you can do it (and so can your child)—without having to fall into a homework abyss.

1. Be positive about homework

2. Have a designated homework time and workspace at home

3. Encourage and motivate, but don’t do the actual work

4. Keep a homework folder or box at home to stay organized

5. Know how to contact the teacher for clarification on assignments


We have lots more resources to help. Check out:

Uncommon Homework Advice
7 Simple Homework Tips

Printable Homework Checklist

More great tips and ideas on homework

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Empty Nesting: The Process of Letting Them Go

by Rose Cafasso

 

A week from now, I will be an empty nester. Or should I say my husband and I will be empty nesting, for it’s a process, not an identity. It’s another phase of the journey we started when our children were little—slowly but surely letting them go.

Though I hadn’t a clue at the time, I started this process on the first day of kindergarten for my older daughter. Apparently, I couldn’t believe my little curly-haired girl could function independently. So I actually got on the school bus with her. I had no idea that parents simply didn’t do that. The bus driver looked at me like I was crazy, and I’m sure some of the bus stop moms snickered. I slowly backed down the two bus steps and watched her find her way to a seat, giant backpack obscuring half of her tiny body as she made her own way.

Now I am sending her and her younger sister off to college. Last night, the three of us stood in our basement among bags and boxes of stuff—towels, toiletries, mini ironing boards, shower caddies, under-bed storage containers, desk lamps, comforters, and snacks. I offered my best ideas on packing, but they actually wanted to do it themselves. That’s what’s supposed to happen, right? They’re now taking the lead; I’m suggesting tips from the sidelines.

But it took me a while to get there.

When my second daughter went to kindergarten, I was a little stronger than when my first one went, so I didn’t try to ride the bus. What I recall is standing with her at the bus stop when she tugged on my arm and said firmly and clearly, “I am NOT going to school.’’ I faltered. Maybe I could drive her? But then I knelt down, looked her in the eye and said firmly, “Yes, you are.” It was the eye contact that did her in, and her quiet acceptance almost killed me.

Then there was the year my older daughter started middle school. She was worried about having to use a locker and in particular, remembering the locker combination. So, we bought her a lock and helped her practice over and over, until she probably could have done it underwater and blindfolded. Still, I worried so much that first day and felt no relief until she returned home to report that the locker experience was a breeze. She had moved on, but I felt 10 years older.

And then high school. I drove my younger daughter her first morning, feeling overwhelmed by this change. But she was in good spirits for she had connected with friends on Facebook to make a plan for sitting together at lunch. As I pulled away from the drop-off line, I felt buoyed by her mood, until I saw a young man—with a full beard, no less—get out of a car and head into the school. I could not believe that someone who could drive and grow facial hair could be a classmate of my daughter. Somehow, I found a way to keep driving instead of running into the school to warn her about male upperclassmen.

Before I knew it, the girls were both finishing up  high school. They had their licenses and were driving to school each day. They would whirl around me in the mornings, sometimes asking for an egg sandwich for breakfast, sometimes ignoring me while they argued with each other about who would drive.

In a few days, we will pack the car (to the brim). My younger daughter goes first to start her freshman year. Then, two days later, we will again stuff the car and take our older girl, who begins her sophomore year. I will do my best not to overstep, to let them take the lead.

And start my own process of empty nesting, the next step in letting them go.

 

Rose Cafasso is the social media manager for School Family Media, SchoolFamily.com's parent company. She lives with her family in the greater Boston area.

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Help Your School Win $10,000 From Frigo Cheese Heads

Are you a parent who would like to help your child’s school? Maybe even help it win $10,000? Enter your school in the Frigo® Cheese Heads® Build a Bright Future Promotion, and you will have a chance to do just that.

The promotion entry period runs now through Sept. 30, 2015. Frigo® Cheese Heads® will award three schools a $10,000 prize and another seven schools a $1,000 prize.

Parents, teachers, and adults over 21 years old can nominate a school with a short essay of between 50 and 200 words that creatively describes something that would benefit students. Make your pitch interesting! And, it should be something that can realistically be accomplished for $10,000. For inspiration, check out the entries for the 2014 winners!

After the nomination period ends on Sept. 30, judges will select 10 entries as finalists. The public will have an opportunity to vote on the finalists from Oct. 12 through Oct. 31. Winners will be announced in late November.

Make sure to tell your friends and other parents about this promotion because the more nominations a school receives, the better a chance it has at winning. You could turn a good idea into something useful for your child’s school! Get the details on how to submit a nomination and the contest rules here. Good luck!

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A Case for Teaching Handwriting in the Digital Age

by Anne G. Faigen

Until a friend described a recent visit with his middle-school-age grandson, I had no idea of a debate raging about the teaching of penmanship. My friend told me, “I got tired of his being in some alternate universe with his electronic gadgets, so I decided to try involving him in something else.” He asked the boy to put aside his handheld gadget so Grandpa could teach him some practical stuff, like filling out a bank deposit slip. He showed his grandson the form and began explaining how to fill it out when the boy interrupted with, “I don’t do cursive.”

My friend’s annoyance reemerged when he told me about the encounter, and my amused response didn’t help. But when I thought about it later, I decided that doing away with cursive really wasn’t funny. What I assumed was bedrock education in elementary schools is no more because some schools no longer include cursive writing in their curriculum. Until my friend’s rant about schools’ failure to teach the basics, I was unaware of the ongoing controversy in educational circles about what was once called penmanship. I was surprised to learn that seven states, including California and Massachusetts, have filed legislation to implement penmanship as a permanent part of their school curriculum.

There are logical arguments to support its demise. Some teachers insist it takes too much time to teach when there are more important things for kids to learn. Skills involving keyboarding, they say, will help their students succeed in school and in careers more than cursive would. In a Washington Post article, Michael Hairston, the head of the country’s largest teachers union, the Fairfax Education Association, calls penmanship “a dying art that has been replaced by technology,” emphasizing that teachers need to make hard choices, given time constraints “and little or no flexibility.” He also said that much of teachers' instructional time is dominated by the need to teach to a standardized test. In an article called “Forget Cursive: Teach Kids How To Code,” author Keith Wagstaff questions what an 8-year-old’s future boss “[is] going to be more impressed by, the ability to write cursive or to code?”

As for me, I’m firmly on the side of continuing to teach our students to read and write cursive. My conviction is partly based on my own experience teaching high school students to write essays demonstrating critical thinking about the literature they were reading. Much of my after-school time was spent writing detailed comments and suggestions in the margins of the essays, the closest I could come to one-on-one teaching in my crowded classrooms. If I had to print my recommendations—something I do slowly and poorly—I would have struggled for many more hours to finish the essays promptly and return them. No matter how elegant the fonts and professional looking their printed work, my students welcomed the handwritten suggestions for strengthening their writing skills.

Cursive is also an effective tool in teaching students with dyslexia, experts say, because all the letters start on a baseline and move fluidly in the same direction, a help to dyslexic learners. A number of research studies also suggest that more areas of the brain are engaged when students use handwriting rather than a keyboard.

What about those occasions when the computer is down but the work has to go on? Business won’t stop because no one knows how to read or write without a computer. And think about all those practical needs for our writing, from signing checks to putting our names on electronic devices when we use credit cards. There are those inevitable forms to be filled out in doctors’ offices, our signatures on drivers’ licenses and, more personally, on birthday cards. At times in our lives when we need words of comfort or encouragement, who doesn’t feel a special warmth in receiving a handwritten note?

As educators and academics respond to the challenges of our technological society, their debate about the merits of teaching penmanship will undoubtedly continue. I’m on the side that hopes, like my indignant friend, that kids will continue to learn cursive.


Writer and educator Anne G. Faigen is the author of several young adult and mystery novels and a former high school English teacher in the suburban Pittsburgh area.

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Emotional Awareness: An Essential Tool for Back to School

by Eve Sullivan

Getting kids ready to start school may have been simple in the past, but not today. Ads scream “Order this…buy that…and your child will be safer, smarter, happier!” And young people, like retailers, play all too well on our hopes and fears as parents and caregivers.

An essential tool for your child’s back-to-school toolkit, however, is one that money can’t buy, and one only caring adults can provide: emotional awareness. The things our children have—backpacks, lunchboxes, sneakers—and the things they know—which bus to take, the new teacher’s name, where to wait for dad to pick them up—all these are easier to track than what our children feel. Yet feelings may be the most important part of their experience, both in school and out.

Children learn to recognize and manage feelings through interactions with parents and other family members starting from birth. Schools can support this process through educational programs in social-emotional learning, or SEL. Their value is well-documented. As the Social-Emotional Learning Alliance for Massachusetts explains, SEL programs increase adults’ and children’s ability not only to recognize and manage emotions, but also to:

  • develop care and concern for others,
  • establish positive relationships,
  • make responsible decisions, and
  • handle challenging situations constructively and ethically.


Research shows that effective social-emotional learning promotes the “good stuff” as it increases:

  • academic achievement by 11 percent,
  • positive attitudes about self and others by 9 percent, and
  • positive social interactions and social behavior by 10 percent.


And SEL discourages the “bad stuff” as it reduces:

  • behavior problems by 9 percent and
  • emotional distress by 10 percent.


While some schools have initiated SEL programs after cases of bullying (a few with tragic outcomes), the reasons can just as well be positive: “We have a great school and a caring community, and let’s make it even better!”

If you are a parent group leader, ask the principal—perhaps at your first one-on-one meeting—what the school doing in the area of social-emotional learning. Don’t stop, even if the answer you get is that the school is taking care of it. Parents as well as teachers need support in this area as much as (and sometimes more than) students. Parenting education is something schools can and should make a normal part of the menu of parent activities, right along with math night and the annual playground carnival.

It is essential, too, to practice your own emotional awareness. Empathy, like a muscle, may lose strength if it isn’t used. If the back-to-school craziness starts getting to you, give yourself a little time out. Ask for help. Remember to breathe.

 

Eve Sullivan is the founder of Parents Forum in Cambridge, Mass. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is another great resource for information on SEL, as is The Parent Toolkit, with a social and emotional development section launching in October.

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Help Your Child’s School Win $4,000 From Frigo Cheese Heads Snack Cheese

Are you a parent who can think of something your child’s school could use? Could you describe it in 50 to 200 words?

Build a Bright Future PromotionThen you have a chance to win $4,000 for your school in the Frigo® Cheese Heads® Build a Bright Future Promotion.

The promotion entry period runs now through Sept. 30, 2014. Five schools will be awarded a $4,000 prize to be used toward the purchase of an enhancement for the school. Parents, teachers, and adults over 21 years old can nominate a school with a short essay of between 50 and 200 words that creatively describes something that would benefit students.

The trick is to nominate a school with an idea that is interesting and also feasible with the $4,000 prize.

The nomination period ends Sept. 30. Judges will select 10 entries as finalists. The public will have an opportunity to vote on the finalists on Frigo Cheese Heads’ Facebook from Oct. 13 through Oct. 31. Winners will be announced in mid-November. In addition to five schools winning $4,000, an additional five schools will win $1,000 prizes.

So put on those thinking caps and get creative! Tell your friends and other parents about this promotion because the more nominations a school receives, the better a chance it has at winning. You could turn an idea into a reality for your child’s school!

Good luck!

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Staying Healthy at Back-to-School Time

When kids go back to school, it often isn’t long before the first sniffles and colds arrive. Parents can’t stop their kids from getting sick, but there’s plenty they can do to help them stay healthy, and if they do catch a cold, to ease the symptoms as much as possible.

One company that understands this well is one of our sponsors, Hyland’s Inc., which has been making cold remedies for more than 100 years. Just one example: Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ’n Cough is made with natural active ingredients that ease common cold symptoms, including sneezing, coughing, and sore throat. It’s an option for parents looking for a safe and effective product with no stimulants, sugar, dyes, or artificial flavors.

Medicine like Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ’n Cough can fit into an overall plan to keep kids healthy so that they thrive during back-to-school time. Other steps parent can take include:

  • Stress basic hygiene rules to your children so they can avoid the common cold or passing it along. Simple steps like not sharing utensils or drinks will go a long way.
  • Remind kids of the importance of hand-washing. Often, they are just too busy to remember. We have printables and mini-posters that you can download to help remind your kids of the importance of this task.
  • If you aren’t sure whether your child should stay home, check this article that provides general guidelines for a sick day. If your child has minor cold symptoms without a fever, then chances are he’s good to go.
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Win a Classroom Reading Area From TeacherLists.com and Scholastic Instructor

Imagine a brand-new reading area at your school where students can sit in comfy beanbag chairs, relax, and read. Add to this: a stereo listening center and more than 1,000 books! Well, it can happen—if you let your school know about the National School Supply Lists Directory at TeacherLists.com and enter its Scholastic Reading Oasis contest!

TeacherLists.com is running the Reading Oasis contest with partner Scholastic Instructor, and here’s how it works: Encourage your school to post all its student supply lists for the 2014-15 school year in the National School Supply Lists Directory at TeacherLists.com sometime between now and Aug. 1, 2014. That’s it! Once the lists are uploaded, your school is automatically entered to win the Scholastic Reading Oasis prize.

The prize, which is valued at more than $13,000, is a turnkey package so the winning school only needs to set up the components and it will have a complete, ready-to-go classroom reading area for its students. What’s more, Scholastic will even come to the winning school to help set up the Reading Oasis.

TeacherLists.com created the National School Supply Lists Directory to help schools, teachers, and parents more easily create and share school supply lists and wish lists. More than 25,000 schools are already using the directory! Here's more information on the National School Supply Lists Directory at TeacherLists.com.

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Start a Conversation About Medicine Abuse With Your Kids

October is National Medicine Abuse Month, a good reminder for parents to consider the possibility that their teens might experiment with over-the-counter medicines.

It’s also worth having a discussion with your child, even if you are certain he is not at risk. These days, one out of three teenagers knows someone who has abused over-the-counter medicines to get high. So it is important to talk, if for no other reason than to help your child understand why other kids are taking these risks.

Teens often try to get high with over-the-counter medicines like cough syrup and pills because they are cheap and easily available, and kids believe it is less risky to use them than illegal drugs. Some cough medicines include dextromethorphan (DXM), the ingredient that helps to suppress a cough, and, when taken in large quantities, it can cause a “high’’ feeling. But it is important for parents to let kids know that some cough medicines, while safe when used properly, can lead to serious side effects when large amounts are ingested.

The key to helping a teen is having a conversation about medicine abuse that is based on the facts. The Stop Medicine Abuse website has good information to share with kids about the possible side effects, which can include rapid heart beat, double or blurred vision, and nausea and vomiting. The website also has useful information for parents, including a list of possible warning signs that your child may be experimenting with these medicines. The warning signs include an usual medicinal smell coming from your child’s room, missing cough medicine bottles, and changes in behavior or mood in your child. The good news is in getting the facts from websites such as StopMedicineAbuse.org; parents can get the conversation underway with their kids.

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From Triaminic: Knowing When a Sick Day Is Needed

Chances are your child will stay out of school because of illness at some point during this school year. Often parents aren’t sure when to make that call. Many of us have been there: Is my daughter sick or does she just want to stay home with the new puppy? Is my son really sick or does he just not want to participate in the spelling bee?

As the makers of Triaminic® point out, when in doubt, seek medical advice from your child’s doctor. But a good general rule to follow is this: If your child is too uncomfortable to participate in all of the school day activities, then it’s best to keep him home.

It’s important to check what your child’s school guidelines are, as well. The school may have this information on its website or may have published in the parent handbook as to when they recommend you keep your child out of school. Also, you can check with the school nurse for guidelines. As always, call your pediatrician if you are uncertain of how your child is feeling or if he displays any of these symptoms:

  • A fever of 100.4⁰F or higher
  • Has vomited twice or more within the last 24 hours
  • Flu-like symptoms that would include chills, aches, and headaches in addition to fever
  • Cold symptoms that are severe enough to impede his ability to learn
  • Sore throat
  • Pain, including persistent pain like earaches, toothaches, and headaches

 

It is a good idea to have a sick day plan in place in case your child does need to stay home. You may need to have backup help, such as a neighbor, who can pick up your other children from school. Another good step is to work out a plan with your employer that may allow you to work at home or adjust your hours so you can be with your sick child. Sometimes distraction is the best medicine! When your kids are feeling under the weather, keep them busy with these fun coloring worksheets! Once they’re back in action, keep your kids on a well-balanced diet with these healthy recipes.

And to find out more about cold and flu symptoms in your area, check the Triaminic Flu Tracker.

 

(c) 2013 Novartis Consumer Health, Inc. U-00485-1

* Disclaimer: Triaminic products are not intended to treat all the symptoms listed above. Please read all product labeling for directions and warnings before use. This information is not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. If your child has any of the symptoms above, call your pediatrician immediately. Parents should also be aware of sick day guidelines specific to their child's school. In general, a child should stay home if he/she is too uncomfortable to participate in all activities and stay in the classroom.

Sources:

When Should You Keep Your Child Home Sick from School or Daycare? Mayo Expert Offers Tips

When to Keep Your Child Home from School

Your Child: Too Sick for School?

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Staying Healthy at Back-to-School Time

When kids go back to school, it often isn’t long before the first sniffles and colds arrive. Parents can’t stop their kids from getting sick, but there’s plenty they can do to help them stay healthy, and, if they do catch a cold, ease the symptoms as much as possible.

One company that understands this well is one of our sponsors, Hyland’s Inc., which has been making cold remedies for more than 100 years. Just one example: Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ‘n Cough is made with natural ingredients that ease sneezing, coughing and sore throats. It’s an option for parents looking for a safe and effective product with no stimulants, sugar, dyes, or artificial flavors.

Medicine like Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ʹn Cough can fit into an overall plan to keep kids healthy so they thrive during back-to-school time. Other steps parent can take include:

  • Stress basic hygiene rules to your children so they can avoid the common cold or passing it along. Simple steps like not sharing utensils or drinks will go a long way.
  • Remind kids of the importance of hand washing. Often, they are just too busy to remember. We have many printables and mini-posters that you can download to help remind your kids of the importance of this task.
  • If you aren’t sure if your child should stay home, check this article that provides general guidelines for a sick day. If your child has minor cold symptoms without a fever, chances are, he’s good to go.
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Map Out a Plan for Breakfast

We all know how hectic school mornings can be. With rushing to get dressed, packing up homework and special projects, making lunches, and getting everyone out the door, we can run out of time to serve a nutritious breakfast. 

Who hasn’t tossed their child a quick breakfast treat just to stay on schedule? 

So, here’s a great tip: Add a breakfast plan to your calendar each week. Think of a selection of nutritious breakfast options and pick them up during your regular grocery run. Bake or cook some options on a Sunday afternoon or evening and freeze them for the week ahead. Then, add a five-day breakfast menu on the calendar. Now, instead of stressing in the middle of morning mayhem about what to serve, you can just glance at your calendar and you’ll be ready to go! 

This is important not just for organizational purposes but also because we all know how essential a wholesome breakfast is for our kids. 

So, try a weekly breakfast plan. Here’s a template to work with: 

Monday: Cereal. Look for cereals with fiber and whole grains. The fiber and whole grains help kids feel full and focused when they get to school. One example of a whole-grain cereal that’s high in fiber is Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats®..

Tuesday: Fruits. Chop or slice your child’s favorite fruits ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Serve up with toast or yogurt on the side. Need ideas for fresh-fruit breakfasts? Pinterest is a wonderful source. Just search on “fresh fruit’’ and you will have more ideas that you can use. 

Wednesday: Homemade granola bars or muffins. There are many online resources that provide nutritious versions of traditional breakfast fare. For example, you can make a batch of granola bars with oatmeal and fruit on a Sunday night. Then, freeze or refrigerate them, and serve them during the week. For other make-ahead options, check our Power Breakfasts section on the School Family Recipe Share.

Also, there are many make-ahead breakfast choices using Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats®, like this recipe for banana muffins with strawberries  or this blueberry bars recipe. 

Thursday: Eggs. Make egg sandwiches on whole-wheat bread or mini quiches and freeze or refrigerate. Thaw the night before and serve. This Pinterest board has many fun make-ahead egg dishes.

Friday: Kid’s choice. Take your child grocery shopping and help them select a healthy breakfast item. This will help them feel part of the process and they’ll be more likely to eat what they’ve picked out.

*Kelloggs’s disclaimer: USDA recommends consuming a minimum of 48g of whole grains a day. Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats® cereals contain at least 42g whole grains per serving.

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Middle and High School: Helping Teens Solve Their Own Problems

This guest blog post is by Erika Cook, a high school administrator who works directly with parents and students.

Help Teens Solve Their Own ProblemsWhen your teen has a problem at school, what should you do? Perhaps your child has a streak of missing assignments, feels the teacher made a grading error, or just plain doesn’t get along with the teacher. It was easy in elementary school because it was natural just to call the teacher. However, once your child reaches middle school, it is harder to know when to get involved as a parent and when you should encourage your child to speak up for himself at school.

Oftentimes, your teen can see his teacher outside of class to review a grade, discuss learning needs, or schedule good old-fashioned help, which should solve most issues. Most teachers promote the idea of teens depending on themselves for their learning; it’s seen as an important life skill.

When talking to your teen about seeing her teacher, a few of these possible talking points might be nice conversation-starters. (Remind her not to forget to use “please” and “thank you.”)

  • Will you review the important causes of the Civil War?
  • Is it possible to go over the quiz questions so I can learn from my mistakes?
  • Since I have a hard time taking notes, do you have any graphic organizers I could use?
  • I am missing multiple-choice test questions; what advice do you have?
  • Would you look at my paper and give me some feedback on how to improve C-level writing?
  • How would you suggest I study for the test on Hamlet?
  • How do I improve my performance during tryouts next season?
  • What should be my next step to keep improving in this sport?
  • What resources are available for me to get help in biology?

When and where should your child approach the teacher? You might want to brainstorm with your teen about a good time to talk to the teacher. Encourage your child to see her teacher during the teacher’s designated preparation periods or before or after school. Students don’t always realize that their teachers are very busy right before and after class. And help your child figure out where the teacher might be at the right time. Sometimes it isn’t as easy as one classroom; a lot of teachers travel from room to room and have a desk in a shared office.

To help your child practice in advance how the conversation will go, you can role-play and pretend to be the teacher. This could help build up your child’s confidence to address the situation. One important aspect for your teen to remember is to focus on the problem and not skirt the issue.

Ask your child whether he has tried talking to anyone else at school about the problem. This might include a counselor, social worker, resource teacher, or administrator. If it makes sense, you should encourage your teen to make a “friend” at the school to help with this and future issues.

These tips for guiding your teens to solve their own problems, while understanding when and how you should get involved, will hopefully help you and your child solve school issues. Just remember, teachers and parents are on the same team; everyone wants your student to succeed. If you use respect, gratitude, and kindness with teachers, you and your teen should have excellent results.

Erika Cook

Erika Cook holds a PhD in educational policy and leadership and an MA in curriculum. She serves as an associate principal at one of America’s top-ranked high schools, and she spends her days educating parents and students about the high school world. She has taught in classrooms ranging from special needs to Advanced Placement and was the recipient of two Fulbright scholarships.

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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

No - 37.4%
Sometimes - 25.4%
Yes - 31.6%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016