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Be There or Be Square

"It's well-documented that parent involvement helps kids do better in school, but during the busy school year, it can be tough to set aside quality time with the kids. That's why a nationwide campaign is asking parents to have meaningful moments with their kids every day.



The Be There campaign encourages parents to do simple things to connect with their kids, like smiling, making eye contact, and asking questions about school. The idea is that these small steps show kids you care about them and their education. Schools in several Virginia communities recently signed on to the campaign, which will get the word out to parents through billboards, banners, and fliers sent home with students.



I'd love to hear from you on this. When things get crazy at your house, how do you break free from distractions and connect with your kids?

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Watch the Video!

Watch the clip of Tim's appearance this morning on Fox & Friends!

He offers some examples and a few tips for thinking about wants vs. needs for back-to-school supplies.

What kinds of tools are your kids asking for this year, and do you think they're wants or needs? Any tips of your own for balancing those two things? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Click the video to play.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ45tgvCSb0[/youtube]
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Mom Song - 24 Hours

"In just under 3 minutes, Anita Renfroe
sums up what every mom says in a 24 hour period...and even manages to
make it rhyme!

If you can't see the video, you can watch it on YouTube instead.
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Lessons on Life

"I grew up in a very small town. The kind of town where you can't go anywhere without seeing someone you know. So when I went back for a visit earlier this month, it wasn't the least bit unusual that I ran into several of my old teachers. What surprised me was how much I remember about being their student.

When I saw Mr. G, my former elementary school principal, I thought back to my first day at the school, which I transferred to in the middle of first grade. Mr. G walked me to my new classroom, which he assured me I'd like. I was shocked that someone so tall (and so old) could be so nice to a little kid. Looking back, it was his kindness (along with the new friends I made at recess) that helped me get past my new-school jitters.

I also caught up briefly with my second grade teacher, Mrs. G (no relation), who taught me to write in cursive. At that age I was incredibly shy and didn't say much in class. Mrs. G recognized that I was more comfortable writing than talking, and encouraged me to do more of both.

Another day I talked with Mrs. H, my sixth grade teacher. I don't recall much about our lessons, but I remember a lot about Mrs. H. As we were dealing with our daily adolescent dramas, she kept a reassuring order in her classroom and required that we treat one another with respect.

I'll bet that every one of you has similar stories of teachers who taught you as much about life as they did math or social studies. As your kids get to know their new teachers, don't forget to thank them for doing the same thing.
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Don't Stop the Bus

Every year, the parents in my neighborhood kick up a fuss about the middle school bus stop. The elementary kids get picked up every few houses, but once they enter 4th grade, they have to walk to a single stop. The stop is about a half-mile away from the farthest point.

When my oldest entered middle school, I asked the bus company and the school superintendent to add a second stop so she wouldn't have to walk so far. They refused, saying it would take too long and throw off the entire bus schedule. Now I'm watching other parents making the same arguments I did about safety and convenience, but since I read about a town that eliminated its buses almost entirely, I'm feeling less outraged by my children's 10-minute walk to and from the bus stop.

It seems that every year the voters in my town have to decide between paying higher taxes or chiseling away at our schools. Last spring, a tax override barely squeaked through. For now, I feel fortunate that I can put my kids on the bus each morning, no matter how far they have to walk to get to it.
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Old Notebook, Fresh Start

We made it through the first week of school and so far, so good. Except I lost the fight to convince my 4th grader to start the year with a fresh notebook.

I knew it was time to give up when, after the first day of school, I found him taping blank sheets of paper over the page dividers of last year's spiral-bound notebook. I asked him what he was doing. "Covering up all this stuff I drew in 3rd grade," he said. "The pictures are just so...you know, bright. And this way I'll have plenty of room to write down the names of my new subjects." What he wasn't saying was he thought his old drawings were babyish and he didn't want any of the other kids seeing them.

I considered pointing out that he wouldn't have to bother with the cover-up if he'd just let me buy him a new notebook, but in the end, I kept my mouth shut. My son has 10 months ahead of him of having to do what he's told. The least I can do is accept his decision about what notebook he uses. So what if it's not something I would start the year with? That recycled notebook is a statement of his own values, not his mother's
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Back to School on Boston TV

If you're in New England and hanging out tomorrow morning, I'll be appearing on the Fox 25 Morning show on Thursday, August 23rd somewhere around 8:30 AM. Will be talking about this great site and all the ways parents can make this the best school year ever for their kids. Hope you can tune in (and hope those wacky morning guys go easy on me!).
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Back to School 2007 on National TV

If you missed last week's local TV spot featuring Back2School 2007, make sure you tune in around 8:40 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, Aug. 29, for the national morning news show Fox & Friends. Tim will be talking about one of those perennial parent issues at back-to-school time: figuring out the difference between what kids want for back to school and what they need....Let us know what you think!
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End of Summer Blues

Well, this is it. School starts this week, and for the first time since I myself was in school, I'm not cheerily tacking up "bon voyage" banners and breaking out the champagne. Dare I say it? I think I'm actually going to miss my kids when the school bus carts them off in a couple of days.

I took my 4th grader to his new school the other night to see his classroom and enjoy a movie courtesy of the PTO. Since then, I've been moping around like I'm the one who's about to start classes. I'm not exactly sure why this is, but I suspect it's because my kids are older and therefore more fun to be around. For the first time, I didn't spend the summer fixing lunches, cleaning up, fixing snacks, cleaning up, admonishing the kids to eat the popsicles outside, wiping up the drips. This year they got their own food and (mostly) cleaned up after themselves. I broke up a few sibling fights, but not as many as in the past. When my youngest was bored, I'd send him off on his bike in search of a friend to play with. Last summer, he was still too young to go off on his own.

Now I know what other parents mean when they say summer is too short. Hopefully the adjustment back to school will be a smooth one for all of us.
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Rapper's Message: Stay in School

Whether you think rap music is a bad influence on kids or harmless fun, you've got to give a hand to Ludacris, who recently held a back-to-school fair for low-income kids in his hometown of Atlanta.

Whether you think rap music is a bad influence on kids or harmless fun, you've got to give a hand to Ludacris, who recently held a back-to-school fair for low-income kids in his hometown of Atlanta. The rapper and actor outfitted 200 kids with school supplies, provided free medical checkups, and gave away gift certificates so the kids could shop for name brand sneakers or athletic wear.

Luda, who made $16 million last year, is among hip-hop's top earners. At the back-to-school event he told kids that sticking with school helped him attain success in his music career, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

For years parents have criticized rap for lyrics that promote promiscuity and glorify violence. But talking with the kids, Ludacris sent a message that parents can get behind.

The music business is 90 percent business and 10 percent music. You've gotta know how to write and do math and speak effectively, Ludacris told the kids. That's why I'm so successful. I stayed in school.
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Back-to-School Back Pain

When my 14-year-old started talking about the style of backpack she wants for school this year, I felt that buying it for her would be aiding and abetting the destruction of her posture. The backpack was perfectly fine it's the combined weight of the books it will be holding that has me seriously considering homeschooling my children just so they'll never have to leave the house with 75 pounds of textbooks on their backs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says backpacks shouldn't exceed 10 percent of the student's weight. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that last year, my daughter's backpack weighed more than she did by 10 percent. I'd be thrilled if she'd agree to a backpack on wheels, but those haven't been acceptable since she was a 4th grader and all the girls towed their books down the hallways like tiny flight attendants. People have always been willing to sacrifice comfort for fashion, but overloaded backpacks on growing bodies aren't just uncomfortable, they're a health risk. There has to be a way for kids to study at home without paying for it with lifelong back pain.
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The Campaign for Healthy School Lunches

When I heard that former President Bill Clinton was on the Rachael Ray show last week, for a brief moment I wondered whether it was a creative campaign appearance for his wife's White House run. It turns out he's in the middle of a different kind of campaign, urging schools to serve healthier meals to kids.

Clinton helped form the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which is tackling the issue of childhood obesity. According to the alliance, 17 percent of American schoolkids are overweight, and school lunches that resemble fast-food fare are a big part of the problem. The alliance is working with schools and major food companies to get more nutritious meals onto kids' plates.

Of course, serving healthy foods doesn't do much good if kids won't eat them. That's why we're sharing great ideas for a week's worth of nutritious sack lunches your kids will actually like.

What's going on in your child's lunchroom? Is the school offering healthier meal options, and are kids actually choosing them?
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Counting the Days

What is it about some grownups that they can't get within 10 feet of a child during the month of August without reminding the kid that school will be starting soon?

The other night, we were at a student art exhibit where my daughter's work was on display when a man spied my 9-year-old son sprawled on a couch in the lobby, examining his thumb. My son put himself on the couch in a sort of protective custody after realizing he had just exhausted his parents' patience by asking for the sixth time in approximately six minutes when we'd be leaving. So there he was, safe from my short temper, inspecting his thumb for any changes since the last time he was mortally bored, when a pleasant-faced man on his way out the door called over his shoulder, "So, what do you think of all those commercials on TV telling you school will be starting soon?"

My son, realizing the man was addressing him, sat up straight and asked the man what he'd just said. The man repeated himself. I watched my son's expression rearrange itself from one of polite curiosity to acute anguish. The man might as well have approached my child with a pair of pliers to remove his fingernails.

I don't believe the man was purposely being sadistic. But it would help if people like him remember what it's like to be a kid in August, clinging to those last free days with the kind of frantic joy that comes from knowing each one is numbered. It's hard enough to be a kid (what with being dragged out to your big sister's boring old art exhibits and having your parents get all grumpy on you when all you want to know is when you'll be going home). The last thing you need is some adult ruining your day by cheerfully reminding you just how soon those numbers will run out.
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Teachers Count

Here's a good way to get in the right mindset for back-to-school: remember (and thank!) all those great teachers who've inspired you. I've been following the neat TeachersCount site for a while to do just that.

Since we're reminiscing -- OK, I suppose I'm reminiscing -- I hope my kids wind up with great teachers like Ms. Carroll (high school history), Mr. Gazzola (high school English), Mr. Maher (5th grade) and of course my mom, who taught 1st grade for a couple of decades, when she wasn't raising four of her own young ones. We read so much about teachers who don't cut it, but tens of thousands of teachers do. Hope they're enjoying these last days of summer, too.
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The Sales of August

Argh! They got me. I swore I wouldn't be sucked into the back-to-school shopping hype until the first day was clearly in sight. But then I saw an ad for 10-cent notebooks.

Just one dime for 70 spiral-bound pages! I just knew the offer would be gone by Aug. 27 (which, in my town, is the day before school begins and which, if past years are any indicator, is when I would have started my back-to-school shopping).

My personal weakness for notebooks propelled me to the store, where across the aisle I spotted boxes of 24-count crayons for 20 cents each. Now, if I took all of the barely used crayons in my home and laid them end to end, they would circle the earth seven times. Yet at 20 cents for 24 crayons (that's less than a penny each!), I felt it would be irresponsible not to buy a couple of boxes. Then I spotted the glue sticks....

I prefer to delay back-to-school shopping until the last possible moment. If a school supply enters my thoughts before the end of August, I lose my ability to sustain the illusion that summer will last forever. When a school-related television commercial comes on, I mute the sound and pick up a book. On Sundays, I pull open the newspaper, scoop out the stacks of flyers, and dump them into the recycling bin. But despite all of my precautions, that ad for the 10-cent notebooks slipped through. I'm already feeling the chilly fall air.

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Too Cool for School?

Here's yet another sign that "back to school" is big business: limited-edition Nike sneakers with designs inspired by school supplies, released just as students are headed back to class. Kids can pick from three different styles, each with the image of a schoolhouse or school bus bearing the Nike swoosh. My favorite is the black and white shoe that resembles a composition notebook, but maybe you'd prefer the bright-blue and orange of an Elmer's glue bottle or the distinctive green and gold of a box of Crayola crayons.

Sneaker aficionados have gone gaga over the shoes, but education bloggers are mixed. On the Biz of Knowledge, Bill Belew questions the cool factor of wearing "crayon shoes" to school. But Alexander Russo of This Week in Education thinks the shoes have a good shot with kids, or at the very least with their parents.

One online store sells the back-to-school sneakers for $85 to $120, but on eBay, bids for the composition book shoe have already topped $160. This leaves me wondering just who the target market for these shoes is, schoolkids or the grownups in their lives?
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School Lunch Angst

The start of school is five weeks away, and already I'm waking up with night sweats over what to pack for lunch. I barely made it to the end of the school year last month without cracking from the pressure of having to fill my kids lunchboxes day after day. Those last few weeks I'd haul myself into the kitchen at night, flip open the lunch boxes and stare into the void.

My kids are like human roulette wheels when it comes to food. Whether my son will want what I pack for him—a tuna sandwich, for example—is more a matter of chance than preference. Sometimes I'll hit a lucky streak. My daughter told me last year that she liked cold rotini pasta, so I packed it every day for weeks. But I guess I overplayed the pasta because she got sick of it. I could kick myself for ruining a good thing by not quitting while I was ahead.

If I were wealthy, I'd give the kids money to buy lunch every day. But at $2.25 per meal, I have to limit them to two hot lunches each per week. I should have plenty of time between now and when school starts to think of some good, healthy lunches that my kids will eat. But I won't. The night before the first day of school, I'll be staring into two brand-new lunchboxes, wondering what the heck to put in them.
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Mommy Business Cards

What will they think of next? I love this concept, but I think there's a huge, huge missing ingredient. Have you seen these new mommy business cards? How can you possibly fit all the needed job titles on a single card? I mean, we've got "Mom," of course. But then there's counselor, mediator, taxicab driver, best friend, chief cook (and bottle washer!), teacher, tutor, sounding board, nurse, doctor, pharmacist,and so, so many more.

I bet you have a few additions, too. Would love to hear them.

That said, this concept of having a quick way to "exchange digits" (as the kids say...) is kind of cool. And if you're involved at school or a frequent volunteer, this is a tool that can help in the same way that business cards work at the office by facilitating connections and follow-up. Kind of cool.
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Back to Shopping

School starts here in three weeks, and the back-to-school advertising blitz is in full force. My neighborhood big-box retailer has long since converted its seasonal section into a smorgasbord of spiral notebooks.

In Georgia, we mark the occasion with a sales tax holiday about a week before classes start. Stressed-out parents and fussy kids crowd the stores, under pressure to get everything on their lists before time runs out. It's a lot like the mall a week before Christmas.

One year, I braved the outlet malls during the sales tax holiday. Around the millionth time I was elbowed by a stranger in a shoe store, I vowed never to do it again. When I pick up school supplies for a donation drive this year, I'll make an early morning trip to the office supply store to avoid the crowds.

What's your shopping strategy? Do you hit the big sales, or do you stay home and buy everything online? Wait till the last minute to load up on filler paper or maintain a constant stockpile of No. 2 pencils?
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Summer vs. School

I think we hit that point today when it's finally OK to start talking about school again. We're about 5 weeks into summer vacation in these parts (with 6 weeks to go), and like the first robin of spring today was the first day when the pool and baseball and bikes didn't take up every waking thought. Books actually made an appearance, too.

Granted, it was a rainy day, so the pool and the baseball and the bikes were on a forced hiatus. But two weeks ago, rain meant some very depressed young boys; whereas today, I think they were actually ready for a break.

These last few weeks have been great. A family trip followed by days at the local pool and after-dinner outside time that often stretched way past what used to be an actual bedtime. Frankly, by mid-June even I was a bit worn out from homework checks and morning routines.

Now, though, I'm glad to see the transition starting. When I got home from the office today, the kids ran to show me all the check marks they had on their summer reading program tracking sheets. First time it happened all summer, but I suspect it will continue now right through back to school. The bikes and bathing suits and baseball mitts are far from packed away, but it's good to see that our young vacationers' brains haven't gone completely to mush.

When do you know that school is on the horizon?
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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