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Birthday Club and Kids' Birthday Parties

Really like this idea from a couple of kids at a Florida school. (And -- yes --I may especially like it because we're right in the middle of our 4 fall birthdays at our house.) The spirit and simplicity of this plan is very appealing. Birthday Party + Charity +PTO Plaque = great combo!

If you have time, click the link and maybe even commend these kids on their program. If not, the nutshell is that kids in this school can choose to support a charity for their birthday party in lieu of the various toys they don't really need. Added touch: the kids make a trip to deliver the gift as part of the party, and the birthday boys and girls get remembered forever on the school's Birthday Club plaque. Very cool.
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Print and Use Tools for School Families

One of the things I'm enjoying most about our schoolfamily.com site is how the content and tools keep growing week after week. Rather than big 2.0 and 3.0 launches, our team works behind-the-scenes adding more and more to the site to help parents.

One of my favorite areas is fairly new; it's our Print-and-Use Tools for school parents -- all kinds of things that you can print out to make things more sane for us busy moms and dads.

Just a few examples include:

Have requests for more tools? We'd love to hear about them (leave a comment here and we'll be sure to check them out). And be sure to check out the whole site often, as things change (and get better and better) all the time.
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Texting in Class? No Problem.

At least that's the trend in this Australian district where -- due to new technology -- kids are being encouraged to text away right under the teacher's nose.

This application sounds pretty powerful, but -- man -- can i think of about 89 ways kidscan use this particular tech advancement to create havoc in the class. Call me a Luddite (or a former high school teacher who liked order), but I suspect there's a long way to go and a lot of safeguards needed before this trend takes hold.

Do you want your kids texting in class?
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Are You the Competitive Parent?

Liked this perspective from Ann Handley over at the This Mommy Gig website. Ann's rant starts while shopping for toys and noticing how every toy now needs to be somehow connected to a developmental goal. Her point -- what about just simple "playing"?

So my question here at SchoolFamily.com is -- has this trend moved into your school? As a parent are you part of the trend? Or fighting it? I guess I'd say I'm half-guilty. I certainly love it when my 6-year-old scores a few goals, and I know what reading group my kids are in (even though officially they aren't leveled), but I'm also not dying over every win or loss in peewee soccer or worrying that my 4th grader's essay isn't Pulitzer-quality.

What's your competitive quotient?
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Improve Your Child's Grades

Sometimes the simple, direct stories are best. Think that's the case with this very straightforward look at how parents should proceed when their kids' grades disappoint. No magic potions or cures. But good solid, step-by-step advice.
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Kids' Schedules: Moderation Advised

Am glad to see some sanity injected (from a college admissions officer, no less) into the discussion of how much we need to schedule our kids. The popular myth seems to be that if Johnny isn't in every club and activity (or traveling team), then Johnny isn't going to get into college.

But this expert advises moderation in kids' schedules. Phew! Sounds like the prescription is: active, healthy kids = great. Over-scheduled, stressed-out kids = not the best idea. The good news is that this particular prescription can wind up easing a lot of parent pain, as well.
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In Praise of BoxTops and Friends

(Cross post from my PTO Today Blog.)

I hope we don't start taking programs like BoxTops for Education (General Mills) and Labels for Education (Campbell's) and Take Charge of Education (Target) for granted. This article in the Boston Globe today about how much BoxTops is giving each year just in Massachusetts reminded me to take a minute to offer a simple... thanks.

Yes, these are marketing programs. No doubt. And there are critics who think that any marketing that touches schools in any way is somehow taking advantage of kids. To me, that's hogwash.

These companies have about 9,000 options of where to spend their marketing dollars and where to focus their community support, and they choose to support schools. Good for them. They could run 10 more ads on American Idol or buy a Super Bowl ad for a million or two. Instead, they put those dollars towards schools. I certainly hope they get more for their marketing dollars by doing this (I bet they do!), but I can guarantee you that a lot more good  like field trips and playgrounds and teacher support and new computers and yadda, yadda) has been done through these collecting and school support programs than ever has been done with a Super Bowl ad.

I know clipping that BoxTop or saving that label or pulling out the "right" card can become rote, but it's worth every now and then remembering why we're doing that and why it's still worth it. And maybe even thanking those guys every now and then. (If you don't have a blog, I'm sure your support at the store will suit them just fine. :-) )
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Time Management for Kids

Kind of ironic that I'm writing about this, considering the fact that I desperately need "Time Management for Tim", but this morning routine/time management for kids blog from the San Francisco Chronicle really sucked me in.

We've gone from 2 kids to 3 kids in school this year, and I still haven't accurately factored in extra time for one more sandwich and one more snack and two more shoes to be tied and 6 more missing notebooks and 14 more forms that I need to sign each morning. For our night-owl family, the goal seems to be to wake up as late as possible while still getting the key morning steps accomplished without being too insane and still making the bus 9 times out of 10. That too much to ask?

We're getting there, but it's a work in progress. How about you? And what are your best tricks of the trade?
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Optimism Matters for Kids and Parents

I've been a huge fan of this program from the first time I saw it (while munching on some Goldfish -- probably the kids' snack that I steal the most) and have been meaning to highlight it here for some time now.

As a parent, coach and former teacher -- I'm always harping on the kids to stop expecting the negatives and rather to expect success. I find that that simple attitude change alone can do wonders for everyone's mood and for their results. Even at homework time, "this is hard, but I can figure it out" is so much different than a frustrated "I can't do this." My kids are tired of me asking my favorite simple question: "Are you being optimistic or pessimistic?"

Which is why I love the fact that someone else is now asking the same question and providing some tools for us parents to bring the point home. It's Goldfish's Fishful Thinking optimism effort, and I give it a hardy 2 thumbs up. I hope you'll take a look (and, of course, expect it to be good!).
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Lice and Now Super Lice. Lovely

While there are lots of joys and smiles that go along with back-to-school season, heading back to lice ground zero (the school closet) isn't one of them. To make matters worse, now we're talking about Super Lice. Are they serious? I think the little buggers were super enough already. I haven't put my many wishes for this school year in priority order, but -- if I did -- no lice would be fairly high up there. Just sayin'.
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After-School Help for the After-School Homework Helpers (Parents)

This story half-intrigued me and half cracked me up. We've all heard about kids staying after school to get extra help, right? Well, here's a twist -- this Ohio district is giving parents the extra help, so that parents won't be so flummoxed by the kids homework!

I must admit, I can see the need. My oldest is just in 4th grade, and I had to do some serious thinking last night about compound subjects and predicates while helping with homework. I'm already a bit worried about those word problems with the trains heading in opposite directions.

Do you need this kind of help? Are your teachers providing it? Is it a trend?
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Back to School, Back to Fundraising

It's a fair question (and one of my pet peeves) asked by this Detroit Free Press blogger: why do the first two weeks of school have to be fundraising ground zero?

I know the two biggest reasons: 1) Schools need the money more than ever; and 2) there's almost a race to beat the other fundraisers that will be dipping into parents' pockets, but I still think a bit of patience is warranted. Wow me. Get me (and the kids) to love school. Impress us with your commitment to education and our families and kids. Make me love you. And then ask me for my $10! Not vice versa.

If you're a features writer for a local paper, here's my response to the column you're about to write trashing all fundraisers. (It happens every year.) I wrote it for our ptotoday.com site (for PTO and PTA leaders), but it works over here, too.

What's your take on the influx of fundraising?
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School Lunch Revisited _ Simple and Healthy?

Before school started, how many of us had resolutions to make school lunches work better for our kids this year? We certainly had/have great intentions this year, but -- wouldn't you know it? -- school's only a week old, and already reality has snuck in. Five days. Three kids. Fifteen peanut-butter-and-jellies. (Full disclosure -- I think there may even have been a peanut-butter-fluff thrown in there. Ouch.)

For those still fighting the good fight, this article from the San Francisco Chronicle is one of the best we've seen this year. Solid content. Variety. And multiple good recipes and options for healthy school lunches.

Several of the commenters on that article cite the same concern I have -- how do you balance no time and morning/night craziness with these kind of healthy options? Fact is that the biggest reason for our P, B & J binge is the convenience of it. Bus is coming, trying to get the kids dressed and fed in the morning -- just no time for mixing up a salad and mixed berries and a wrap sandwich. Never mind the time to shop for all those ingredients well ahead of time.

So my big question: how do you balance the time crunch with healthy lunches? I, for one, still need to know.
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Parent Involvement Q & A

Not exactly light reading, but if you're looking for a good read on the hows and whys of getting involved with your child's school, this parent involvement Q&A with a Connecticut district's parent involvement coordinator captures all the angles. Good stuff.
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School Lunches -- healthy, safe and fun

So our 3 boys trekked back-to-school today, and—among other things—I forgot about the joys of packing lunches for 3 growing boys with different tastes at 6:45 AM. Lovely. The only saving graces were that: 1) they were too concerned about larger issues to grumble about their P, B & Js today; and 2) I remembered that we have a ton of good stuff here on the site to make school lunches easier.

A bit of schoolfamily.com searching, and I'm already better prepared for tomorrow morning:

1. I do need to do a better job of keeping the kids food safe. This article on food safety for school lunches made me think.

2. I ran across this MomCooks site (even though DadCooks, too) and thought these were some excellent ideas for brown bag lunches your kids will eat. We have a similar article on lunch ideas for kids here.

3. Also think I'll download a couple of these fun lunchbag labels to use, maybe on Fridays.

Three lunches per day for 180 days.... hmmmmm... only 537 lunchboxes left to fill this year. Egads!

Do you have any favorite school lunch tips of your own? I'm all ears.

Editor's note: Please take a look at our new School Family Recipe Share for more ideas about school lunches, as well as quick and easy dinners, recipes that kids can make by themselves, and much more! Send us your favorite recipes, and we'll include them in our Recipe Share. 

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Parent Involvement -- The Data

If you're not a data wonk, feel free to skip right over this blog post, but this information certainly at least deserves a highlight here. The federal government is out with a comprehensive study of parent involvement habits of K-12 parents nationwide.

Complete parent involvement study is here.

Highlights:

  • About 54 percent of students in grades K through 12 had parents who reported receiving notes or email from the school specifically about their child; 91 percent had parents who reported receiving newsletters, memos, or notices addressed to all parents; and 49 percent had parents who reported that the school had contacted them by telephone.

  • A higher percentage of students in nonreligious private schools (66 percent) had parents who reported that their children's school communicated with them via notes or e-mails compared to students in other types of schools (assigned public: 53 percent; chosen public: 56 percent).

  • Ninety-two percent of students in grades K through 12 had parents who reported receiving any information from the school on the student's performance; 83 percent had parents who received any information about how to help with homework; 75 percent had parents who received any information about why the student was placed in particular groups or classes; and 86 percent had parents who received any information about the parents' expected role at the student's school.

  • Eighty-nine percent of students in grades K through 12 had parents who reported that an adult member of the household had attended a general school or a parent-teacher organization or association (PTO/PTA) meeting since the beginning of the school year (table 3). Seventy-eight percent had parents who attended a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference; 74 percent had parents who attended a school or class event; 46 percent had parents who volunteered or served on a school committee; and 65 percent had parents who participated in school fundraising.

  • A lower percentage of students in grades 9 through 12 had parents who reported attending a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference (61 percent) than students in grades K through 2 (90 percent), 3 through 5 (92 percent), and 6 through 8 (76 percent).

  • Fifty-nine percent of students in grades K through 12 had parents who were "very satisfied" with their child's school; 64 percent had parents who were very satisfied with their child's teachers that year; 63 percent had parents who were very satisfied with the school's academic standards; 62 percent had parents who were very satisfied with the school's order and discipline; and 55 percent had parents who were very satisfied with the school's parent-staff interactions (table 4). In addition, 75 percent had parents who reported that the amount of homework assigned was "about right."

Will be good to benchmark this and see how these trends move. Of course, this objective data needs to be colored with the trickier subjective measures of the quality and effectiveness of that involvement. One thing to attend a parent-teacher conference (which is certainly good); another to really get into an effective partnership with your child's teacher.
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Rave Reviews for SchoolFamily.com

How cool is this? Was randomly surfing the web, when we ran across this back-to-school story from Connecticut. Was about to move on when I ran across this quote:

"As I surfed the Internet to find some of the most practical advice, I found a wealth of information and some excellent Web sites with advice on almost every area of concern, with tips covering the years from beginning pre-school to college.
Some advice came from education experts, administrators and teachers, and some articles were written by parents who have been there. Some Web sites even feature question and answer and blog sections, where parents can communicate and ask for specific advice.
I found SchoolFamily.com to be most comprehensive and helpful."



 


Nice. We agree. If she loves it now --wait 'til she sees what we have in store for later this year and beyond. Be sure to bookmark this site (and maybe share with a friend or your whole school community?), because we have tons more resources coming up. Idea is to make SchoolFamily.com the most comprehensive solutions/info/tools site for school moms and dads on the entire Web. And according to Ms. Manciero -- we're getting there pretty quick!

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"Don't Whine, Get Involved"

Short and sweet -- and right on the money! CNN's Roland Martin makes an impassioned plea here for parent involvement. Love it. As he says:
"Show up on the first day and do not make it your last. There is no greater gift you can provide your children."

Couldn't have said it better myself. Great message for back-to-school.
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Boo Hoo Breakfast

OK, this PTA creatively calls it the "Kindergarten Cry" but I still love the name "Boo Hoo Breakfast" for an event to welcome/support the new parents at your school, who are letting go of their babies for the first time. Fun way to make that first connection and make a great first impression.

Reminds me -- there a whole bunch of good "Boo Hoo Breakfast" docs in our File Exchange. Have you seen the File Exchange yet? It's my favorite new PTO tool of 2008 (though I am a bit biased).
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Mommy Business Cards

Here's an interesting twist -- do you have a business card for your mom career? I can see both sides to this one. On the one hand - especially as the new school year approaches -- there's a convenience to simply handing over the contact info all those times you're signing up for the PTO or PTA event or the band parents or the birthday party list or you name it. On th other, has it really come to this? Have we so businessed-out the family life around town that we all need DayTimers and business cards for the carpool line? Not sure... interested in your thoughts.
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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

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

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