logo

Cool Lowe's Christmas and holiday ideas

I've worked with Lowe's quite a bit these past few years, most often on our partnership on the very generous Toolbox for Education grant program. Even with all that work, I never really thought of Lowe's as a Christmas brand for school families.

But that's changed this year with two programs that I think are worth a look.

The first is a unique gift card program that works well for teachers. There's certainly plenty at Lowe's that a teacher can use, but the real neat thing here is that you and your kids can customize the cards with a picture (of your child, perhaps?) and a unique message ("thanks for teaching me fractions", "holiday wishes for a great teacher").  Nice concept for something both personal and useful for the teachers on your list. Lowe's customizable cards are here.

The second idea is the chance to buy the cool "build and grow" kits as a gift for your own kids. The kits are classic parent-child projects with all the pieces and step-by-step instructions.  And pretty cheap.  A nice switch from Call of Duty.  Details on the Build and Grow kits are here.

Hope these two ideas help with some of your school or learning holiday challenges.

 

Continue reading
  5786 Hits
  0 Comments
5786 Hits
0 Comments

New research on middle school parent involvement

I found this middle school involvement piece from the Wall Street Journal.  No surprise, as Sue Shellenbarger's stuff is typically excellent on all kinds of parenting and school-family issues.

The upshot on this piece is likely comforting for many parents of middle schoolers, folks who are often frustrated that they can't be or their kids won't let them be or their schools aren't as open to them being as involved as they were in the elementary school.

That's OK.  The kids are different; the involvement can be different. Seems like a natural progression.

A new research survey on parental involvement in middle school nails down an answer: The best way to promote achievement in middle school isn’t to help student with their homework, or even to volunteer for school fundraisers. Instead, middle-school students posted the best results in school when their parents stepped back a bit and moved into more of a “coaching role,” teaching them to value education, relate it to daily life and set high goals for themselves, says the study, published recently in the journal Developmental Psychology.

Good stuff.

My only fear is that research like this will give parents a green light to disconnect from school. The fact is that staying connected can have quite positive effects even beyond the classroom.  As the kids grow into more serious danger zones, that's the time when our connections with their friends' parents and their teachers and counselors serve as an early defense system and a zone defense system and a safety net. And those connections can be forged best through school involvement.

Understood if you're not hawking gift wrap now that junior is a 7th grader, but not OK to forsake the school involvement piece entirely. We may be there quite differently, but we still need to make those connections that will serve us and our becoming-independent (but not all the way there yet) children well.

Continue reading
  12443 Hits
  1 Comment
12443 Hits
1 Comment

Should we get time off for parent involvement at school?

This Miami Herald brings up some really interesting issues around school involvement and family policies fr our businesses. I'm conflicted.  I'm a huuuuge involvement fan and the love the thought of more parents at school for confeneces and meetings and volunteering. On the other hand -- as a small business owner -- I'm often cautious about more and more specific legislating about how we have to run the business.

 Personally, I think of school volunteering time as personal time.  It all depends on what the employee prioritizes.  I absolutely think that conferences and volunteering should be perfectly OK uses of personal time at work, and I believe that workplaces should be more flexible with personal time (I think it actually adds to the bottom line, frankly).  But one employee's volunteering for the Cancer Walkathon and another's volunteering at the school play are equivalent in my eyes.  In my experience when the government gets involved in legislating these things they balloon well past the intent.

I suppose I would favor a regulation that would allow time for parent-teacher conference attendance.  That's more specific and less flexible time-wise than involvement in general. Maybe twice a year.  And how about a standard form that the teacher would sign saying you were there?  That too much? 

What's your experience with this?  Are you able to get to school when you want to?  How about when you need to? Do we need a law on this?

Continue reading
  5182 Hits
  1 Comment
5182 Hits
1 Comment

Safety Saturday and Lowe's

Thought I'd highlight this for you folks.  I really like the sound of "Safety Saturday", which is coming up at the end of Saturday.  Think: fire trucks and expert tips and all kinds of demonstrations  -- all in the parking lot down at your local Lowe's.

Here's the link for details on Safety Saturday.   

It feels like a great complement to the free kids' projects workshops that Lowe's runs, which are also very cool.  They're called Build and Grow clinics

Hope they're  a fit for your family.

 

 

Continue reading
  7624 Hits
  1 Comment
7624 Hits
1 Comment

Internet Safety: What the kids search for online.

My friend and colleague Marian Merritt of Symantec sent a note about some very interesting research from Symantec.  It comes from 6 months of data (millions of kids’ searches) from the new OnlineFamily.Norton.com service.   I’ve been serving on the Advisory Board for this cool new parent tool for nearly a year now.

 

CNET covered the story in detail (and Marian makes some excellent points in the article), so we’ll link directly to the CNET story about what kids are searching for online.   The Top10 search terms:

 

1. YouTube
2. Google
3. Facebook
4. Sex
5. MySpace
6. Porn
7. Yahoo
8. Michael Jackson
9. Fred ( a fictional Youtube character, we’re told)
10. eBay

 

At least 5 or 6 of those 10 present challenges for us parents that we have to address.

 

The upshot from my perspective is that as parents – and especially as parents who want our kids to thrive in a digital age – we have a responsibility to help them do their online living safely and smartly.  We don’t send our 5-year-olds to the playground without help; we don’t send our 15-year-olds onto the Interstate without lessons; and we shouldn’t be sending our school kids on the ‘Net without able guidance.   I personally like the OnlineFamily tool, but there are lots of Family Internet Safety tools out there for you. Are you using one on your home computer?  Are you learning enough about this stuff to help your child thrive?  Throwing away the computer or snipping the Internet connection isn’t a realistic option in a day when kids can get online seemingly everywhere and from every device.

 

My mother-in-law liked to say: “Parenting ain’t for Wimps.”  I suspect that’s even more true for parenting on the Web.  We have to be there and appropriately parent our kids’ web habits, just as we do the rest of their key developmental habits.  What are you doing to be there with your kids, even the young kids?

 

PS – Are you on Twitter?  I’ve  been starting to get into the whole Twitter thing.  Follow me at www.twitter.com/TimPTO)

Continue reading
  7672 Hits
  3 Comments
7672 Hits
3 Comments

Swine Flu , Parents, and Schools

 

I’m sensing that schools are going to be the first line of defense this fall and winter when it comes to the Swine Flu and getting our kids vaccinated.  This AP article on parents’ views of school and the flu shows that most parents are comfortable with their kids getting the flu help right at school.  Not surprised, since from what I’m reading, this new flu strain is spreading especially quickly among children.

 

After the initial deluge of attention, it seems like Swine Flu concern has died down some.  What are you feeling?  Me?  I’m not overly concerned, but I’m definitely interested in getting our kids and our whole family protected as soon as we can. I like the idea of schools leading this effort, as…. well….  where better to get the big swatch of kids in one fell swoop?

 

If you’re interested in the concept (having the school host the clinic) for your child’s school, then definitely check out the “Teach Flu a Lesson” program over at ptotoday.com. Spread the word to your administration, school nurse or PTO or PTA.  I suspect we’re going to be hearing more and more about this in the next weeks and months.

Continue reading
  4863 Hits
  0 Comments
4863 Hits
0 Comments

An Online Driver's License for Kids and Teens

Thanks to my involvement with Symantec's Online Safety Advisory Council (check out their new www.onlinefamily.norton.com product for a cool web safety solution for your family), I occasionally get to listen in as some very smart techies talk shop. One idea that bubbled up last night really caught my eye: Should kids need a certification or driver's license of sorts to go online? Now, it would obviously be very difficult to enforce this in all homes or on all cell phones or the like, but what if we started with just school computers? Before young Billy can use the school machines, he has to have completed the online safety course. Or he has to pass the online safety quiz that pops up before the login process. Something like that. It's akin to my local YMCA where kids under 16 can't use the weights or exercise equipment without going through a safety intro with a Y staffer. I can't break my toe on the web or tear a muscle, but the web risks are every bit as real. Seems like a good start to me. What do you think? 
Continue reading
  8406 Hits
  3 Comments
8406 Hits
3 Comments

8th Grade: What to Expect Academically and Socially

Most agree: junior high is not an easy time. Teens pretend to be cool and laid back, but beneath that cool exterior is your same child -- just trying to figure it all out. What's a parent to do? Well as the saying goes: "The best defense is a good offense." In the case of a junior high student, or any teen for that matter, being an informed parent is key. Armed with information, you can be the empathetic parent that you want to be. With that said, check out this recently published article about 8th grade academics and what to expect. You'll find great information about how your child can strengthen their academic and organizational skills before heading to high school. But academics are just part of the teen puzzle, right?! We've also just published an article on what to expect for social changes in 8th grade. Happy reading and remember, it's all good!

Continue reading
  3767 Hits
  0 Comments
3767 Hits
0 Comments

Virtual Summer School - Something to Think About!

What student doesn't feel that summer vacation is at least a month too short? Factor in summer school, and your summer vacation suddenly becomes less carefree (for both parent and child)! Enter virtual summer school! Here's an article about how summer enrollment in one virtual summer school is soaring! The flexibility it offers leaves you wondering if this may be the wave of the future, for summer schools everywhere.
Continue reading
  4022 Hits
  0 Comments
4022 Hits
0 Comments

A Little Organization Goes a Long Way

We all want to make the most of our summer, right? In order for parents to have a carefree summer, a little organization goes a long way. Instead of letting the end-of-summer and back-to-school craziness creep up on you, use our new Back-to-School Planning Guide. This checklist is sure to help you stay on top of things, so you can enjoy some family fun -- right up until the end of summer!
Continue reading
  3836 Hits
  0 Comments
3836 Hits
0 Comments

The New School Cheating? Or no?

Lots of conversation about the recent Common Sense Media report on how many kids are cheating (and how) these days and how they're using new technology tools to help.

Obviously, some cheating is still just cheating. Has been happening since beginning of time and should be policed and discouraged (and we should continue to talk about why honesty matters).

But Robin Raskin (among others) asks the interesting question of whether all of these uses really are cheating. Isn't learning to access information efficiently and smartly a 21st Century skill? There's a point there. How do we balance these two items?
Continue reading
  3664 Hits
  0 Comments
3664 Hits
0 Comments

Summer Reading and Your Family

Really like this idea from the Washington Post "On Parenting" Blog. It's a summer reading challenge for the whole family starting now and ending Labor Day.

Our guys have done the program at the local library the past few summers, but I like how this one brings mom & dad in, too, and gets the whole family working towards a goal together.

Do see some complications that we may have to customize. Our three-year-old needs to be read to (and her books are short). Whereas Mom & Dad typically have much longer books. Thinking that reading books *to* the three-year-old will count towards family goal and maybe we can even set some individual quotas for each of our clan of 6 readers. (Am I over-engineering? I do that.)

Also need to think of a good prize. I'm sure I can get lots of help with that at home.
Continue reading
  3184 Hits
  0 Comments
3184 Hits
0 Comments

Summer and Learning and Fun Can Go Together

Our family is right in the middle of summer planning season. I know that those "organized" families have already booked all their camps and trips and classes (you know who you are...), but I bet we're not alone in still figuring all this stuff up right up through August.

That's why I really love this new piece one of our talented contributing writers, Patti Ghezzi, just penned on the Top 20 Summer Destinations for Learning. I'm sure our family will hit our share of not-much-learning-going-on fun spots like water parks and beaches, but we're definitely going tor try to mix in some neat learning/experiential spots into the summer. I can see the Intrepid Museum in NYC in our future....

Quick highlight of two other articles on similar theme. First = Avoiding "Summer Amnesia" (that fun trend where kids have to spend the first two months of the new school year reviewing all that they forgot over the summer). 2nd = Sneaking Learning into Summer Fun. Think that one is self-explanatory.

Man, I love writing about summer...
Continue reading
  3591 Hits
  0 Comments
3591 Hits
0 Comments

Super Mom as Role Model?

Recently ran across this column from Newsweek about a very involved mom wondering why her own daughter listed "dad" as role model on a school assignment.

The column itself -- especially the fairly heated stay-at-home vs. working mom debate in the comments section -- isn't exactly warm, fuzzy Mother's Day stuff, but it is thought-provoking. Is getting involved worth it? (I say yes.) Will the kids recognize its worth? (Maybe, but not likely while they're still kids.) Is there a proper balance between not involved and too involved? (Definitely, as there is in all things.)

Anyway, it's a good read. Love to hear your thoughts on it.
Continue reading
  2885 Hits
  0 Comments
2885 Hits
0 Comments

Thanking Teachers and Mother's Day

I like how Teacher Appreciation Week and Mother's Day are connected this year on the calendar. For me, the son of a long-time grade school teacher, they always have been connected, even when thecalendar says differently. And now I'm married to a teacher, too, cementing the connection further.

It's always been easy for me to make the connection between a good teacher and a good mom. Both bring passion and compassion and a hard-to-define,hard-to-findcombination of techincal know-how (long division and making a birthday cake) and soft skills (what's needed to today, a pat on the back or a kick in the rear-end?)to their charges. And both change the world every day.

I don't recall Teacher Appreciation Week being so formal when I was a kid, thoughI do remember my mom having at least one of every type of apple known to man. Ceramic apples. Real apples. Apple-shaped notecards. Apple ashtrays.... (Sidenote: I feel like Bubba from ForrestGump-- barbecue shrimp, fried shrimp, cajun shrimp...). That memory does bring me to a quick appreciation tip -- No Apples! Just trust me.

Thought I'd use this blog space to say thanks and Happy Mother's Dayto the two special moms and teachers in my life. Gracias Ellen and Louise!

If you're looking to thank a teacher, thought I'd also provide a couple of links that making doing so online pretty easy. There are several sites now that connect donors with teachers. Instead of apple ashtrays (those are a bit politically incorrect nowadays anyway...), you can provide exactly what a teacher has asked for for her or his classroom. Pretty cool. Some choices:

Donor's Choose

Adopt-a-Classroom

I Love Schools

Continue reading
  4136 Hits
  0 Comments
4136 Hits
0 Comments

Tracking Playgrounds _ KaBoom

With 4 active kids, I love running across a random playground where they can have fun and be active (read: use up all their energy before bedtime).

And that's what makes this little app from the KaBoom folks so neat. They're trying to map out every playground in America. Do you know a few that aren't on here? You can even rate 'em.

Interesting to think about what the ratings should be based on. How high are the monkey bars? Coolest slide? How much goose poop?No local teens making the playground into a mini, offlineMySpace page?

Anyway, give it a look. I added a couple of playgrounds myself. Is your favorite playground listed?
Continue reading
  3230 Hits
  1 Comment
3230 Hits
1 Comment

Are you doing your kids' homework for them?

That's the worry in this well done Chicago Tribune article on parents and homework.

Love the anecdote about the engineer parent and the $30,000 science fair project. Wait 'til my kids get a "make your own magazine" project, right? Maybe I can bring in our art director and editorial staff for that one.

I completely get the temptation.Who doesn't want the project to look just right? But -- as a former teacher -- I can see the downside. If we tie our kids' shoes for them every time (or just buy them velcro), will they learn to do it on their own? No way. Homework is meant to be practice. Most good teachers use it to assess if the school lessons are taking hold and if more review is needed. No way for teacher to make that assessment for your child, if the homework is done by you.

Homework best practices is right up our alley here at SchoolFamily.com. Check out our complete parents and homework article archive for a good start.
Continue reading
  3146 Hits
  1 Comment
Tags:
3146 Hits
1 Comment

The New Homework, how do we parents keep up?

Spent last week in New York (as part of an Advisory Council for Symantec's new efforts around internet safety) focusing on how technology has become such a central part of our kids' experiences these days. My take: where there used to be two different discussions -- one about internet safety and one about parenting --today it's really just parenting. The web and connectivity (chat, text, social media) are that integrated into our kids lives.

It's also why I was interested in this blog post describing one mom's experience with her daughter and how her studying and web socializing are merging. Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Or just reality? How are you keeping up with this stuff?
Continue reading
  6449 Hits
  0 Comments
6449 Hits
0 Comments

Norton Online Family beta is live

I've been playing with this new Internet Safety program from Norton for a while now, and I really like it. I've got a decent techy brain (I can figure things out if I have to), but I prefer simple, and that's where Norton's new product does its best work. I don't have to load a whole bunch of software and then remember to download updates and reconfigure and all that stuff i never do. Instead, after a fairly easy set-up, I can use the system (and tweak preferences) easily and issues (son #1 trying to visit wrong websites or the like) are emailed directly to my wife and me.

As a parent who doesn't want to be a spy or the secret police, I like the spirit of this program. It's an open conversation between your child and you and then a system to keep that conversation going when it needs to be going.
Continue reading
  3884 Hits
  0 Comments
3884 Hits
0 Comments

Scholastic, Books & "Stuff" in school

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one. There aren't many parents out there who haven't been hit with the Scholastic book club flyers or the Scholastic book fair weeks. We've got three in grade school at my house, so it seems like we have a flyer almost every week from one grade or another.

But the question of the day is: should Scholastic sell so much non-book "stuff" (didn't want to use word "enrichment" and didn't want to use the word "junk") in its book programs?

One of the anti-commercialism groups is taking Scholastic to task for the practice. But Scholastic's spokesperson is unapologetic, claiming that the additional materials (a game wrapped with a book, for example) encourages more reading.

Me? I love the classics, but it's also easier to get my kids reading, if it's a topic they love (whether that's dinosaurs or Kevin Garnett) and/or there's an element of fun. On the other hand, I'm skeptical that the merchandising decisions are all made with *only* reading in mind.

What about you? Scholastic wearing you out? Or do you like the variety in the clubs and fair sales?
Continue reading
  6899 Hits
  7 Comments
Tags:
6899 Hits
7 Comments

School Family Connection Newsletter

Get school tips, recipes, worksheets, and more

First Name
Email *
Yes, send offers from carefully selected partners.
(* = required field)

Advertisement
Advertisement

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