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SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

At What Age Should You Give Your Child a Cell Phone?

photo by zizzy0104

There's always a lot of discussion amongst parents about what is the right age to get your child a cell phone. Well this article from local paper shares the middle school student's perspective on when to give kids cell phones.  If you're a parent of a tween or teen, you'll get a kick out of this compilation of kids's essays.  Their words will make you smile -- lines like cell phones are a privilege (not a right) makes you think maybe they are listening after all!

Are you down to the wire about a cell phone phone for your middle schooler for Christmas?Maybe this article will help.  But be forewarned,  just because these tweens use words like  invoke, laudable, and endeavor  (vocab words of the week?!?) doesn't necessarily mean they are responsible enough to have a cell phone.  It all comes down to a case by case decision.

What do YOU think is the right age to have cell phone? More importantly, what are the rules in your house around cell phone use?

 

 

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Relaxation Techniques for School (and life!) Success

Exams, papers, reports card, oh my. Not to mention the excitement of the holidays, time off from school, and the ever-present runny nose. December can be a very stressful and busy time for children of all ages. Anxiety can be a motivator for some kids, but it can also paralyze others from living up to their potential.

If your child is having trouble keeping it together through all the stress of December, try taking some time to help her learn simple relaxation techniques.

For a start, even a few minutes of sitting quietly or throwing a ball around outside with you can relieve tension that builds around studying for tests and writing papers.

You might also try simple breathing techniques, like these outlined below.

Sit in a quiet place away from phones, school work, music, computers.

Notice your breath; hear your breath.

Put your hand on your belly and notice how breathing makes your belly move.

Now breath in to the count of three and breath out to the count of three.

Do this for just a minute or two and see if it helps remove the clutter of the day from your child's mind.

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Awesome Website that Teaches Kids to Give Back

I'm willing to guess that many of you have kids that have computer games and  xbox, wii and Nintendo games top on their Christmas list. If you are anything like me, these are the least favorite gifts to give.

 I worry (too much, my kids would tell you) about my kids wasting valuable time online and "gaming."  My kids will also tell you I expend a lot of energy encouraging them to find other things to do with their free time. Well I just came across an website with games for kids that I would actually encourage my kids to play!

The website is called Generation Cures.  Here's how they describe themselves: "Generation Cures is an online community for kids and families that helps raise funds for research critical to finding cures for childhood diseases. It's a fun, fascinating, educational experience that uses games, videos, puzzles and more to teach kids and their families that, through the power of giving, they can make a true difference in the world."

What I love about this online community for tweens:

  • Really fun games that do a good job of engaging critical thinking and reasoning skills, while teaching kids about science and math!
  • Videos about some amazing kids. So inspiring.
  • At every corner, kids learn about helping others and giving back. 
  • Biggest love: the community teaches tweens that you don't have to be an adult to make a difference. 

With vacation upon us, I am definitely going to encourage my kids to spend time in the Generation Cures community.  This holiday season, teaching our kids about giving back is a gift we can give them that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Just like the credit card commercials say: priceless. 

 

 

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The art of play: Have our kids forgotten?

Child at Play

Or should I say, did they never learn? Either way, it's just plain sad.

Did you know that there are consultants that help teach children how to play? I thought that's what kids naturally did best! Maybe not anymore, laments Boston Globe Columnist Derrick Jackson. His quote says it all:

"My issue is not with the Playworks folks or the schools that hire them. It is the fact that we adults have dumbed down creativity to unprecedented levels. We all conspire in this, from test-score politicians to helicopter parents building up their child’s college resume with rigid, adult-run sports and music programs. Whoever thought we’d need a national crusade for kickball?"

Phew. We all want the best for our children—there is no denying that. But I hope that his article makes parent pause and evaluate how they structure their kid's time. He reminds us how essential it is for busy families to find balance in their lives. Think that his article is a must-read for parents to reinforce the value of letting kids have time to just play.

Love to hear your thoughts on kids and play.

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Kids and Activities: How many is too many?

It's that time of year! Back to school, kid's activities ramping up. How do you decide what and how many extracurricular activities your children will participate in?

A recent article on MSNBC talks about a study that says that most children actually thrive on numerous activities. Says that it's the parents who are who are stressed out by the overload. Hmmm. Seems that that a stressed parent is going to have an effect on the child. Bottom line is that we are all trying to strike some balance. If our kids are in so many after school and weekend activities that our only time that we "connect" is in the car, shuttling to and fro, that can't be good.

We have some good articles on choosing after-school activities and finding balance for busy families. We are interested in hearing how your family chooses what your kids will participate in and what kind of limits you set. What do you think is the "right balance" ? Jump into the discussion about kids and activities.

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Cool Contest for Budding Artists

Hey parents, with the long weekend upon us are you looking for something fun and constructive for your kids to do? How about sending your budding artists to the drawing board... SchoolFamily.com and Henkel invite kids ages 2-18 to share their artistic vision of a more beautiful world in the Henkel Helps Create! Kids Art Contest.

Very cool grand prizes will be awarded to 4 artistic kids: $1,000 and a trip for 2 to NYC on November 4th-7th to see their artwork on display.

A trip to NYC?!! I think I'll nudge my kids to get creating. 

One last important note: the contest deadline is September 13, 2009.

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After-School Program Cuts = Stress

As parents, we have so many details to attend to with our kiddies going back to school. For working parents, there's the added layer of securing after-school childcare or activities. This article about cuts in a New York, city-funded daycare center hits home.

Seems lately, there have been many articles about after-school programs being slashed, due to budget cuts. The result: scrambling and stressed out parents! We have heard of some parents hiring after school tutors/babysitters to come to their house. But that often cancels out their income. It's quite a dilemma.

Curious to hear if you have experienced this your area. What are parents doing to fill the childcare void? Join our community and jump into the working parents discussion. Share your thoughts, ideas, and solutions... or just vent!

 

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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.

 

 

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Stories at the Table

When my kids were in the house, it was a regular part of dinner to go around the table and say one thing about the day. It got us started in conversation, and it didn't stop.  Its where my kids learned about who I was, and who my wife was, and who they were, too.

As a storyteller, I've learned over the years that we use stories to give meaning to things - that's how humans work. Stories tell us where we come from, and help us think about where we're going. While the media - movies, TV, books, even storytelling recordings, by, um, yours truly - is a source for many stories, it's important to remember that some of the most important stories a kid will hear are personal and family stories from those around them. It's family stories that ground a young person in the world - hearing a story from someone in your life has much more resonance than something you got off a screen from someone who doesn't know you.

The best place for those stories is over food at the family dinner table. Your sharing of the story about the time you got in trouble, or the first time you did anything (rode a bike, took a plane trip, broke your arm), and the story your kid tells back about something that happened to them that day, is at the very heart of culture. That seems so ridiculously simple it's hard to believe it makes a difference. But simple things count. The proof of that is the study from several years ago (I can't find the citation, but trust me, will you? I have it somewhere!) that searched for common threads in the lives of National Merit Scholars; the only consistent element in all of their lives was that they regularly ate dinner with their families.

You could call it the classroom of the dinner table. No tests. No curriculum. Just stories.

My friend Donald Davis, a great storyteller, has a small gem of a book to help you think about your family stories - Telling Your Own Stories.

Remember, though, that telling stories is what humans do, so you don't need to really learn about it. You just need to do it.

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Back-to-School Budget

Who needs tuition? This Cincinnati story on back-to-school price tags makes the case that the average public school parent, too, is shelling out more and more $$ for what once was considered basics. Are we balancing school budgets on the backs of parents (again)? Where's the line between what should be provided as a matter of course in a public school and what is rightfully considered an extra?
"The index projects that to fill the backpacks of their children this year, parents should have $351 available for elementary school pupils, $530 for middle schoolers and $894 for high school students. And those expenses don't recognize the cost of back-to-school clothing.

The expenditures range from standard supplies to fees for extracurricular activities to study materials and fees for standardized college entrance tests."

Ouch.

It certainly seems as if the line between what is considered a standard (covered) expense of providing a public education and what is considered an extra (and therefore fees can be charged) is moving rapidly? Where does it stop? As much as school is about learning and test scores, it's also about a broad education and finding passions and learning to be a well-rounded, well-adjusted adult. Hate to see a day when kids will have to pay a fee to play a role in the school musical or debate club or basketball team. Those "extras" are not extras in my eyes. They're essential parts of the school experience.

Where's the line these days in your school? And is there any way we can stop that line from sliding, sliding, sliding to the point where there is a toll booth at the doorway to each classroom
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Toddler Soccer: Too Much, Too Soon?

I read some shocking news this week. Here in my very own community, kids as young as 18 months are training to become the soccer stars of tomorrow. The toddlers I know are content sticking toys in their mouths and mashing Play-Doh, and as far as I'm aware, none have expressed an interest in learning an organized sport. So who decided it was a good idea to teach toddlers soccer moves before they've even moved into big-kid beds?

You guessed it, it's parents who are behind the popular program. The coach started the classes with preschoolers in mind, but parents kept pressuring him to let in younger and younger kids. As the reporter explains: "After constant pestering, he gave in to parents and expanded his program....Now he's saying no to parents of 14- and 16-month-olds."

It's generally accepted that sports and other extracurricular activities are good for kids. But taking on too many activities can be very stressful for a child, not to mention exhausting for parents. Many parenting experts and psychologists say families would be better off cutting back on activities to have more family time.

These toddlers are a long way from competitive play. They're still learning soccer fundamentals, like kicking the ball as opposed to carrying it. But I can't help but wonder: If a kid is going to soccer practice before he turns 2, how many more activities will he be juggling by the time he starts school?
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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