Survey says sexting is less prevelant than originally believed

The Internet has been abuzz this week with news that the practice of sexting—kids texting naked photos or videos of themselves or others via cell phone—is nowhere near as rampant as we’d all been led to believe.

The news is the result of a national survey conducted by researchers at the Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC) at the University of New Hampshire, and was reported Monday in Pediatrics: The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The four authors of the survey, which is called “Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A National Study,” concluded that making or sending sexual images is “… far from being a normative behavior” among teens and younger children.

However, the study found that while the rate of sexting is lower than initially believed, children and teens need to be better informed about the “legal consequences of sexting,” and, more immediately, what to do if they receive such an image.

Has your teen received any sexting images? Might be good to ask. It also might be good for you to refresh your Internet safety knowledge by reading SchoolFamily.com's Internet Safety Tips for Parents.

Conducted by phone, the CCRC survey included 1,560 young people, ages 10-17, who use the Internet. Just 2 ½ percent said they’d made nude or nearly nude photos or videos of themselves, and of that figure, only 1 percent said the images were “sexually explicit” (i.e. images of breasts, genitals, or buttocks).

However, far more students—7 percent—reported receiving nude or nearly nude images of other youth, while 5.9 percent said they’d received images that were sexually explicit.

Researchers also found that few students who reported receiving such images had then distributed them.

The study was conducted by Kimberly J. Mitchell, Ph.D., a psychologist at UNH; David Finkelhor, Ph.D., UNH sociology professor and director of the CCCRC; Lisa M. Jones, Ph.D., research assistant and professor of psychology at the CCRC; and Janis Wolak, JD, a senior researcher at the CCRC.

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A Positive Approach: Teach By Catching Kids Doing Something Right!

Parents and teachers have a tendency to tell children what they are doing wrong. That’s our job, isn’t it? But wouldn’t it be better to tell them how to do things right instead?

“You need to keep working on your math homework, so you can have your snack,” is so much better than, “Stop wasting time!” Many children do not know what they are doing that is “wasting time.” This is especially true of children who struggle with executive functioning. These children need frequent reminders to stay on task, and the reminders should tell them what to do rather than what not to do.

Another thing that can help is to catch children doing what you expect them to do, and then give them positive reinforcement. The reinforcement needs to be something very small, like a smile or a thumbs-up sign. With older children, it shouldn’t be public or be something like “I like how you are doing [fill in the blank]!” Why? Because older kids see through this and feel it is false praise. They also feel that you are singling them out in front of their friends—not cool! (But, they do enjoy your attention!).

These gentle, positive signals can help children learn what they are supposed to be doing rather than having a constant reminder of what they are not supposed to be doing.

Next time you are tempted to fuss at your middle schooler, think about phrasing your concern in a way that confirms what you would rather have him do instead of only telling him what he’s doing wrong.


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"Yes, Virginia—Grades Do Matter" Or, My Attempt to Make My Kids See It This Way

It’s that time of year: time to stress about sending holiday cards, time to battle the shopping frenzy, time to sneak one last glass of eggnog (I’m not judging); oh, and time for REPORT CARDS!

 For years now it’s been a simple stampede of S for satisfactory and N for needs improvement and E for….(what the heck is E for anyway)?

 We made it through junior high with mostly As, and a few Bs sprinkled in for spice. Not bad we thought. And it’s all practice and building and preparing for high school, right?

 As a parent what can you really expect from your high school student? Do they really understand as a freshman that these grades matter? As in—matter which college, and matter how much money out of their pocket, oh and the little matter of affording to EAT during the college years or not?

 The other night my 5th grader was listening to a conversation my freshman and I were having about whether getting one B is really all that big of a deal. The younger one said, “Who cares about grades anyway?” (She thinks a report card is just a piece of paper you bring home and shove in a box along with 3rd grade sloppy essays and glitter covered kindergarten art.)

 I explained in no uncertain terms.

 Grades DO matter. College matters. And it’s getting more and more expensive. Scholarships will make a huge difference and good grades will decide the bottom line in the university money game.

I simply expect my kids to do their best. Do I want them to get straight As? You bet your 10th grade report card I do! I know it’s important to be realistic and supportive. If my kid is struggling to pull a B in geometry and I see her spending extra time and effort, then a B is perfect and we’ll celebrate with all 31 flavors! But what do you do when you see a B on midterms and then find out assignments are missing and a recent test was a flop, (a test they can re-take by the way)?

That’s when it’s time to jump in and help the kid understand this isn’t junior high  anymore, and S for Satisfactory is in the far distant past. When all the kid’s other classes result in As but one class is lagging, it’s time to pull out your pom poms and short skirt and start up the Parent Cheer Squad. It’s time to help your freshman learn the fine art of STUDYING. And TIME MANAGEMENT. And PRIORITIES.

Okay, yes we took away texting for a few weeks.

We limited any type of “screen” time after 8 p.m.

And we made it clear we believe she can do better, and met with the teacher to map out exactly how.

It may sound like I’m doing the work for her, but I already took geometry (and memorizing all those theorems isn’t something I’d ever repeat)!  We will love and support all of our kids despite a little thing like grades. But until the last bell rings, we’re here to cheer our kids to do their best and send them off to college with the skills to put the smackdown on the 101 crowd.

Do grades matter? Yes.

Does it matter when you help your kids do their best? Absolutely.

Does parent involvement matter? Ask me again in 4 years.

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4 Ways to Help Reluctant Kids With Research Papers

Students in my Science, Technology, and Society class are just beginning to work on their research papers. Mark (name is changed, of course) was particularly stressed about choosing his topic. He said things like, “I am not interested in anything that I can actually find sources of information on.” Or, “I can’t write 8 pages on this topic.” I tried to calm him down a little and encouraged him to begin thinking that he could do this paper. He said, “My glass is never half-full. I’m a half-empty kind of person.”

 Students who struggle in school often feel defeated before even beginning. Mark’s attitude came across as anger. He seemed angry with me for giving him this project, and he also seemed angry with himself. This is probably the result of past failures on similar tasks.

Here is how I plan to help Mark:

  • Break this project into smaller chunks that he can do. “First, let’s pick a broad area of interest. You like computers, don’t you? Let’s look for articles that talk about some controversy related to computers.”
  • Help him find sources of information that he can read and highlight on his own.
  • Meet with him regularly to keep him on task. This will be especially important as he begins writing, because I believe his real fear is whether or not he can write a paper that long.
  • Encourage him on a regular basis. “Mark, look how much you have already done!  What do you need to do next? Are you feeling a little better about this paper? You can do this, Mark. It’s hard work, but you are up to it.”

If your child is behaving similarly, it might be worth using this approach with her at home. A call to her teacher can help you clarify what the expectations are for the project. It is important to remove the emotional block that is keeping her from even starting by asking, for example, "Okay, thinkwhat comes first?"

If he is successful with one project, he may feel more capable when starting the next one. If not, provide the same support until he begins to take charge of his own learning.

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What If My Child Refuses To Do Homework?

More than once parents have asked me what to do when their child refuses to do her homework, with a refrain that goes something like this: “This math is stupid. When will I ever use it? I’m not going to do it.”

I believe that students naturally want to learn. Therefore, when I hear a child say this, I automatically think he is having difficulty doing the work. It is likely he is trying very hard (or has been trying), but does not know how to do it. It is much easier to say, “I don’t care,” or “This is stupid,” than, “I am trying very hard, but I can’t do this.”

Children in this situation feel like they are stupid and a failure.

I believe the first step for helping your child who is refusing to try is to help her understand that it is okay for some things to be very hard to do. I have been working with a student who was saying very often, “I am stupid. I can’t do math.” First, I told her that she is not allowed to say that any more—and gave her a list of alternatives she can say.


It's okay to say:

  • “Math is hard for me.”
  • “I am not good at math.”
  • “I hate math.”
  • “I have to work harder at math than anyone else in the world.”

It is not okay to say:

  • “I cannot do math.”
  • “I am stupid.”
  • “I am a failure.”


The second step, after doing the above to help the child change her mindset, is to get help. The student I am working with is now getting tutoring in math. She talks out loud when she works through math problems. And, she has the opportunity to redo assignments that she fails. With these accommodations, she is learning and feeling a little bit more confident. She still hates math and probably always will. But, she is making some progress and will probably pass for the year.

For more suggestions about what to do when your child is having homework difficulties, read “What If My Child Can’t Do the Homework?”

To learn more about changing the mindset of failure, read “Change How You Praise Your Children to Assure They Reach Their Potential.”

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9th Grade Sex Ed Survey: What Would You Do?

What would you do as a parent in this situation?

A teacher at Rio Rancho High School in New Mexico who passed out a voluntary, anonymous sex survey to students in a 9th grade biology class, has been placed on leave until the school system conducts an investigation, according to a recent report on the Huff Post Education site.

The survey, which was reportedly passed out as a way to teach students about sexually transmitted diseases, asked students to report anonymously if they were sexually active and to list the people they’d recently kissed. Parents were not informed about the survey before it was administered to students.

A follow-up story posted on KOAT.com, the website of an Albuquerque television station, included comments from current and former students at the school who say that the survey has been around for years, and that numerous other 9th grade classes have completed the survey over the years.

 Regardless of the eventual outcome in this situation, how would you react if such a survey—voluntary and anonymous— was given to your child by a biology teacher?

Seems that few subjects get parents as riled up as sex ed. Remember when we brought you the story about the new sex education mandate in New York City public middle and high schools?

Turns out it’s become more controversial than expected, especially concerning content for students in middle school. Flash cards depicting anal sex, oral sex, and masturbation have been removed from the middle school sex ed curriculum, according to a New York media outlet.

Problem is the schools have a high teenage pregnancy rate, which education officials are hoping to reduce through the mandated sex education curriculum. New York City Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott recently said, "A significant percentage of our teenagers have had multiple sexual partners, so we can't stick our heads in the sand about this”

Many parents feel it's their job to discuss sexuality and teen pregnancy with their children, but what happens to those teens whose parents are too uncomfortable to broach the subject of sex? Education officials, in New York anyway, say that's where classroom-based sex ed comes in.

 Parents and guardians, what do you think? Please let us know by commenting below.

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A Gratitude Shout-Out From Our “SchoolFamily” To Yours


Our family’s world revolves around the activities of our three school-age kids.  And as much as it often looks like we don’t know whether we’re coming or going… all those activities we’re involved in are things we choose to do and wouldn’t change.

  • Free guitar lessons on Wednesdays? Great. We’re in.
  • Chess Club starting on Monday? Perfect; where do we sign up?
  • 5th grade Scarecrow Crafting contests! (Please bid on the…um, “creative” creations? Yes, but if I win the auction will it be okay if we don’t bring it home? The wet hay stinks!)

If you think about it, all these activities and extras, whether during or after school, are all thanks in huge part to brave volunteers and already-weary teachers who go the extra mile and take the time to care.

Chess Club, for example, is run by Mr. Young, a 4th grade teacher. He’s been checkmating 2nd through 6th graders long enough to know college-age kids who used to be on his team! That scarecrow bonanza owes its brain to a room mom who spent umpteen hours rounding up multiple parents to help with supplies and valuable time. And the music teacher who spends her Wednesdays teaching young kids to strum a mean Kumbayah? She doesn’t get paid for that; it’s on her own string.

All around us in our extended “SchoolFamily,” there are numerous people that we’re grateful for. I’ve created a list of just a few specific to our family; Who are YOU grateful for in YOUR community’s “SchoolFamily?”

  • All our schoolteachers of course! We totally get that they are a huge influence in our children’s lives. And if there is ever a job that doesn’t get enough thanks it’s that of being a teacher. Our “SchoolFamily” supports and thanks ALL of our teachers!
  • The SMART reading volunteers across our whole town. Hundreds of SMART volunteers (stands for Start Making A Reader Today) read one-on-one in schools to younger grades. Thanks to all those participating in a reading program that really hits the needed mark.
  • After-school activity teachers and leaders. We’re grateful to our piano teacher, art teacher, volleyball volunteer coaches, T-Ball coach—and of course we can’t forget the drama coach! Over the years we’ve had ballet teachers, karate teachers, and multiple other types of teachers—thank you to all.
  • Church/Youth Group volunteers. We are always grateful to Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, and Cub Scout leaders who are all volunteers and are not only unpaid, but often under-appreciated!
  • Community and cultural volunteers. Have you thought about all the people-hours that go into the various parades, festivals, and town/city carnivals in your area throughout the year?  Some city positions are paid, however remember that many, many volunteers help support and spend their own time and resources to create memorable events like a Veterans Day parade, a Christmas Carnival, or planning and running a successful 4th of July  Festival! And every time there is a cultural event, be it a play, a choir, or a community children’s performance, there are sure to be volunteers behind the scenes helping your community be a better place to live.

THANK YOU to all of the people who give of their time and talents to my “SchoolFamily.”

Who is your “SchoolFamily” gratitude list?



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Test and Improve Your Child's Working Memory

Having a good working memory is important for school success. When we are engaged in problem solving or learning something new, we have to manipulate ideas in our brains. We might be trying out new things and figuring out how they fit in with what we already know. We might be thinking about a new vocabulary word and relating it to similar words that are already a part of our vocabulary. Each of us has a limited amount of memory space for doing these activities. If we have a poor working memory it can cause problems.

On average, a school-aged child can hold and work with between five and nine things at a time.  Younger children can manipulate fewer things than older children. It doesn’t really matter how many it is, it only matters if it is causing difficulty for some reason. 

A child who has poor working memory loses track of what she is doing. I watched a student read a math problem carefully, decide how to work it out, line up the numbers on grid paper, begin adding the numbers, and then switch to subtracting in the middle of the problem. He lost track of what he was doing because his working memory capacity was limited.

There are several simple tests you can do to find out how many items your child can control in his working memory. First, however, be aware that some children do better when working with letters or words than they do when working with numbers. And some children remember what they see, but not what they hear. Therefore, your child may have a better working memory in some situations than in others. 

Try these tests, but be careful not to go so far that your child becomes stressed. Try to make this like a game to them:

  • Say a series of three numbers rather slowly (about one per second). Then ask your child to say them back to you. Do the same with four, five, six and on until she cannot say them back (remember, stop before it becomes too difficult.)
  • Try a similar test with short sentences (three words), and work up to longer sentences until you find the number he can do successfully.
  • Say three numbers and ask her to say them back in reverse order. This is obviously a more complex task, but it is probably more like what she will be doing when working a math problem. Try this with more numbers until you find the limit.
  • Repeat the tests using letters (forward and reverse).

What can you do to improve working memory? If you feel your child has a poor working memory, you might want to do some practice activities to see if it helps. You can do so by using one of the activities you used as a test. For example, if your child was able to repeat three numbers, practice until he can do it consistently. Then, give him four, and keep practicing until he can do four consistently. This takes time, but it might gradually improve his working memory capacity.

I would love to know if any of you have tried similar activities that work. Please post a comment and let me know! 

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Drama vs. Sports: Is There A Difference?

Welcome to our first year of high school. My daughter is a freshman and has all honors classes, with promises of double homework. She also has piano, marching band (marching during home football games), and all the friends and Facebook time she can fit into her schedule! (Let’s just say we don’t get a lot of babysitting privileges anymore.)

Imagine my surprise when she announced she was trying out for the school play!

 Okay, I thought, IF she makes it we’ll deal with the time issues. I made it clear her grades always come first, and she adamantly maintained she could handle it all.

The thing is I don’t think her Drama Coach got the memo.

For seven weeks, every day after school, she was expected to be there, be on time, be prepared, and never miss a single practice. All this? To be a “Townsperson.” That’s right. She has a small part. But if she misses a single practice she’s been warned she could be kicked out of the play. (Or so she tells me when I complain that it’s all too much!)

We’ve had to reschedule orthodontist appointments. I cartwheel around her schedule to get younger kids to various activities while at a moment’s notice find out I have to drop everything and go pick her up (at 5 0r 6 p.m. or later!). There is no real schedule. Oh, and sometimes Saturdays are thrown in just for fun!?

Do I sound like an unhappy theater Mom? I am.

And I finally lost it, and let her know this is not acceptable.

The crazy schedule, the inflexible rules—it’s all crazy unrealistic.

This was her response and it really threw me for a loop.

“Mom, I’m not into sports. THIS is my thing. If I were on the volleyball team you wouldn’t have any problem with me staying after every day, practicing late, dealing with a neurotic coach. And you know there are times kids don’t get to ‘start’ if they miss a practice. It’s really the same for me.”

Wake-up call to Mom! 

I was the kid who WAS into sports. I played team sports all through junior high and high school. I had not compared her insane play practice to a kid on a sports team at all. And believe me, she cares about this every bit as much as I cared about basketball!

Her first performance was this weekend. And we were so proud of her.

Think about what she learned from all this? Perseverance, memorization, stage presence, courage to stand on stage, and a mean new set of negotiating skills to debate an irate mom and a neurotic Drama Coach!

Now guess what? Tryouts for the school musical are in two weeks.

Welcome to Season II, Mom.

L-R, Carissa Roger's daughter, a high school freshman, and a friend, both in character as "A Townsperson" for their high school play.

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Can “Working Memory” Problems Cause Difficulty in School?

Memory is a complicated process. Most of us are familiar with short-term memory, the place where new information goes before it gets stored in long-term memory for later use. Most psychologists now agree that there is yet another component of memory called “working memory.”


When you need to actually manipulate facts in your brain, your brain must move that related information into working memory. For example, when you add several numbers together without writing them down, you must keep them in your working memory while you add them.


Many children with attention problems have problems with their working memory.  This is because the working memory is very limited in how much information it can hold and manipulate at one time.  If that memory space is being filled with extraneous information because of inability to focus on what is important, working memory cannot function properly.  In the example above, something in working memory (like the numbers you are adding) gets pushed out of memory and replaced with unimportant information (someone is using the microwave to cook popcorn).  This prevents finding the answer, because important information is no longer available to work the problem.


If this is a problem for your son or daughter, you may be able to help. Your child will benefit from having a quiet, distraction-free place to work on schoolwork.  For tips on how to do this see How Parents Can Help With Homework. Your child also needs to know basic facts and procedures on an automatic level because working memory space can get completely filled with basic information (add, subtract, multiply, divide, academic vocabulary, etc.), and there is no room left for solving the problems. 


I just read that it is possible to improve a child’s working memory. While I have not tried it with a student, it does make a lot of sense. I will tell you all about it soon!


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Article Shows How My Daughter Will Study From Now On

The other day, an email arrived from my friend Cindy, with a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal. No, it wasn't about finding the best hedge fund manager or advice on what to do when the stock market takes another nosedive.

Instead, it was an article about new research findings for the most productive ways students can and should prepare for exams. And if I have any say about it, it's going to change the way my daughter studies for the exams she'll face in her 1 1/2 years left of high school, not to mention her upcoming SATs and the ACT. For her sake, I only wish I'd read it before the math exam she's facing today.

The article, which can be found here, covers everything from how to study effectively, to the type of sleep a student should get the night before an exam, and even the type of breakfast she should eat. 

Turns out that those of us (present company included) who pulled all-nighters in college shouldn't have bothered. According to the article, a 2008 study of 120 students showed that those who crammed the night before an exam scored lower than those who prepared  ahead of time. Further, it showed that an all-nighter "impairs reasoning and memory for as long as four days." Wow. Talk about a studying hangover.

As for how to successfully prep for an exam, the article confirmed what we' at SchoolFamily.com are hearing more and more—repetition and practice, practice, practice are the best ways to learn and retain information. A student preparing for an exam should test himself repeatedly to teach his brain to retrieve and apply knowledge, according to the WSJ article. This is the method also recommended by SchoolFamily.com blogger and full-time educator Livia McCoy. Read McCoy's blog post on the topic from earlier this week here

So we now know that repetition practice and self-testing are the ways to study, but how about the best time to study—or does it even matter? It definitely matters, according to the director of a sleep and research lab who is quoted in the article. He says students should study the most difficult material immediately before going to be the night before the exam, which apparently "makes it easier to recall the material later." He cautions against waking up earlier than usual to study, saying this compromises needed rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep.

Okay, so what about breakfast? A hearty morning meal of sausage, eggs, and bacon? Or perhaps a quick granola bar or a bowl of cereal grabbed on the run? WRONG. Students facing an exam should enjoy a breakfast full of carbohydrates and fiber. This combination, found in the form of, say, oatmeal, offers slow digestion and therefore a longer feeling of fullness. But the article also reports that what a student eats in the week before the exam also matters. In one study, students who ate a "high fat, low-carb diet heavy on meat, eggs, cream, and cheese" for five days before a test, performed poorly as as compared to the scores they received on the same exam after eating the recommended high-carb, high-fiber breakfast.

So long, Frosted Flakes. Hello Quaker Instant Oatmeal. 

Finally, in a recommendation that I found especially helpful (and that I appreciated as a nod to the significance of a student's emotional state before an exam), experts in the WSJ article offered an easily learned "calming tactic" for students to use before a test. Students are asked to imagine themselves in a pleasant yet "challenging and invigorating" situation, giving the example of kicking the winning goal in a soccer game. Once students have their image in mind, they are told to immediately switch that image to the room where the exam will take place, such as their math classroom. With practice, the experts say, students will be able to do this successfully on the day of the test.  

An even easier method (which speaks to me as a writer, and validates my propensity for making PRO/CON lists when faced with something I'm anxious about), is to have an anxious student use the 10 minutes before her test to write down her worries. In a study of college students, those who did this exercise scored the same on the test as the students who weren't feeling anxious about the test. In other words, confront your biggest fears and put them down on paper. Come to think of it, this exercise might work for any anxiety-inducing situation students, or adults, might face in life.

So, tonight I'll hear from my daughter about how her dreaded math test went today. And for  future exams, I'll encourage her to follow these guidelines and studying smarter, not harder.





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"Retrieval Practice" is A Proven Way to Study

Many students do not know the best methods to use when studying for a test. 

According to Jeffrey D. Karpicke, a researcher at Purdue University, a lot of students don't  understand that they can't be looking at what they are trying to learn in order to learn it. Instead, they really need to put the material away and try to remember it without looking.

"When students have the material right in front of them, they think they know it better than they actually do," Karpicke says. "Many students do not realize that putting the material away and practicing retrieval is such a potent study strategy."

Purdue researchers call this “retrieval practice” and they claim that students should do this every night as part of their homework. Specifically, they should sit and try to remember new things they learned so far in a unit. 

This retrieval practice helps to consolidate the learning into long-term memory.

A way for students to practice retrieving information without looking at it is by using this customizable vocabulary chart from SchoolFamily.com. If students study by using elaborative strategies such as webbing (which I recommend), they should also incorporate retrieval practice into their routine.

Editor's note: For more studying-related tips and strategies, check out these other blog posts from Livia McCoy on SchoolFamily.com





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Why Your Teen Needs to Care About Math

This week, SchoolFamily.com presents a guest blog authored by Clare McIlwraith and Chris Whittington, a.k.a The Study Gurus. This dynamic duo specializes in teaching student how to study effectively. They share their years of studying and tutoring experience at thestudygurus.com.

Is your teen uninterested in math?

Do you know they could do better in it?

You’re not alone. Math is by far the most unpopular subject in high school.

Fortunately we have a solution for your teen that will help them break out of their “I hate math” funk—and we’re not even going to mention a single math formula!


Why teens hate math so much

It’s a defining trait of human behavior that we simply don’t do something if we don’t have a reason to. (Or sometimes if we don’t have a good enough reason not to—in the case of procrastination!)

For a lot of teens math seems like a pointless exercise. While this is terribly frustrating for so many parents, we can’t blame our teens, because in most cases no one has actually bothered to explain to them why it’s important.


If your teen doesn’t know why he needs math, then why should he care what X equals?

Some teens are just naturally motivated to want to do well at school—even in math! But probably the majority of students aren’t—and they need to know why the subject is important in order to get motivated about it. Otherwise, their understanding will suffer, along with their grades…


What can you do to help?

You don’t have to force your teen into studying. Or have yelling matches about why she should care more.

The best thing to do is to just have an open and honest chat with her about the importance of math after school.

The point of this conversation is not to transform your teen into a math-loving mini Einstein overnight. It’s to plant the idea that math isn’t taught to torture them, but because it’s an incredibly important aspect of life in the ‘real world’.

It is used daily by pretty much everyone who has a career that isn’t flipping burgers.


How should this conversation go?

If you have some, you could start by sharing how you use the math you learned at school on a daily basis. Or maybe how you sincerely wish you had tried harder and done better at math because then X, Y, and Z would be so much easier.

Another approach could be for you to talk about all of the professions that use math every day, because there are a LOT…

Not just the obvious ones—engineers, architects, and accountants; how about doctors, builders, teachers, electricians, computer technicians, scientists, nurses… the full list is long!

The fact of the matter is that most (if not all) satisfying and well-paying professions require a reasonable level of math.

You don’t want your teen to learn this the hard way—when it’s too late and their hopes and dreams are dwindling down to the size of a Big Mac.

Now is the time for them to make the most of school and seize the day—even when they have math class.

For more math advice, visit The Study Gurus website.

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School's Halloween Carnival Equals Applause For teachers!

My fake Farah Fawcett wig is off to teachers who make a difference … kudos to teacher involvement in schools everywhere!

Three years ago, we experienced our first elementary “Halloween Carnival” at our current school. And I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled to attend yet “another” fundraiser. The week of Halloween is crazy-hectic enough with last minute family costume changes, church events, classroom parties, friend's parties, and … Trick or Treating, don’t forget!

Like many events, however, we absolutely enjoyed the carnival once we got there. (As if the kids would let me miss it!) We gathered up our ghosts and goblins and marched in to purchase our tickets. I was prepared with a few dollars so that each kid could buy popcorn, drinks, and whatever snacks were provided.

I wasn’t prepared, however, for the teacher involvement.

The what? You heard me.

It was something I had never experienced before. We’ve lived in 4 different states, attended 6 different schools, and I can tell you it’s a rare occurrence to see teachers in the building after school hours … much less RUNNING the whole school carnival!

After I snatched my jaw up off the cotton-candy crusted floor, I asked around. “Is this normal? Do the teachers usually attend after school events?” And the response was: “Well … this IS their fundraiser after all.”

Really? What a great idea! Turns out the funds raised are divided among the teachers for them to spend as they see fit: mainly on classroom supplies or as a year-end budget for simple field trips (mostly for transportation expenses.)

Our PTO gets involved and helps supply paper goods for the event, but the planning and operation is carried out solely by the teachers and our amazing Principal Krieger. Knowing this benefits the teachers directly—and my kids indirectly—has kept us returning year after year to enjoy the goodncrazy chaos and fun.

Apparently this carnival tradition has been tricking out for many years, because the game booths are substantial (they've obviously been built by hand) and have been improved over the years. Imagine running the popcorn stand or the pie throwing booth?!

Yes. They are ALL teachers.

Possibly the best part of the whole night? Seeing Principal Krieger dressed as a scarecrow!

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Consequences of a Zero: How One Missing Grade Makes a Huge Difference

Many students do not understand how important it is to complete (and turn in) every single assignment. They think that missing a paper or two does not make much difference in their overall grade. I have tutored students before who were failing in a course who really weren’t doing that badly on the work they did. They seemed to understand the concepts as we worked through them. But, because they did not do all the work, their grade was terrible.


Help your child understand this concept. Show them how to calculate an average (add all their grades together and divide by the number of grades). Then do some pretend calculations to show them the difference between getting an 85, 79, 90, 88, and 100 (average is 88.4), versus getting an 85, 79, 90, 0, and 100 (70.8 average!). At my school the 88.4 is a “B” and the 70.8 is an “F.” 


One missing grade makes a huge difference.


Sometimes, the issue is not that they did not do the work. It might be that they forgot to print it out, lost it between home and school, or put it in the wrong notebook. Parents can help with this, too. If these are issues for your child, they might need an organization system to help them keep up with their work.  Check out A Notebook System That Aids With Organization for an idea that might help them keep up with their homework.


Or, they might need a checklist to use before leaving home in the morning. Organization Tips to Eliminate the Forgotten Homework, Lunch, Sneakers… provides you with one method that has worked for many students.



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Going Solo on Halloween: A Salute To Single Parents Everywhere

My husband is an attorney. And surprising to many, that statement is not mutually exclusive of the fact that he is the funniest, silliest person I know, and the most likely   to dress up in witch-drag as “Elphaba” for Halloween! (This photo of the Rogers family is from Halloween 2010.)

He relives his high school thespian days on any given evening by transforming his face and arching his shoulders into a hunchback and pretends to attack our children. He teaches the kids Weird Al songs and can be heard singing “Dead Puppies” at the top of his lungs.


One of our favorite family traditions isn’t really a family thing at all. Every Sunday night he makes his special chocolate chip pan cookies with the kids. (My only job in this affair is to make sure there are plenty of chocolate chips in the house at all times!)


Our family has been known to dress in a theme for Halloween. We spend months planning what we’ll wear, who will be what, and then dad scours second hand stores to find exactly the perfect vest or wig to fit his vision.


I’m sharing all this to make it clear we simply cannot function on many levels without him. And I haven’t even mentioned that while I work a little from home, by far, he is the breadwinner in the family. I am the consumer.


Fast forward to the end of October: What are the Rogers’ planning?


What is our crazy dad going to be for Halloween?


... HE ISN’T.


The horror! (Insert Macaulay Culkin face slapping.) Why? Because he’ll traveling for work over the week of Halloween.


We try to adjust to his travel schedule throughout the year. Mornings are painful. Getting the kids up and ready and off to their various schools and bus stops, on my own, makes everyone grumpy. Afternoons are less stressful, since that’s my normal realm.


But the evenings simply kill me. Adult conversation, and someone to watch the latest Netflix movie with and share a few laughs during the Colbert report are evening pastimes that are simply wrong when alone. Plus, I stay up too late and my feet are cold without my husband/foot-warmer next to me when I crawl into bed.


But missing Halloween? It’s like collectively punching us all in the gut. The joy in dressing up is lost. I’ve contracted Costume-Refusal Syndrome. (Seriously, it’s real; Google it.)


I keep thinking about all the single parents in the world: The mom who folds laundry alone or the dad who watches “Modern Family” alone. They help their kids with homework after school and in the evening, then get up, feed them healthy breakfasts, and scoot them off to school — all without any help. The short-lived single-momness I experience cannot compare to their world. They do Halloween alone every year.


I salute single parents everywhere. 


The thing is there’s always another year for us. (Who knows, maybe we’re secretly planning to dress the whole family head to toe in blue Smurfalicious outfits next year? Shhhh don’t tell.) 




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A Cool (Free) Tool for Doing a Presentation

Many teachers assign presentations to help their students develop their speaking and presenting skills. I recently learned to use some presentation software that is available free on the web. It’s called Prezi and is particularly good for those who do not like to write lots of words and who tend to be more creative. It also allows you to show off how much you know about a topic without tempting you to turn around and read from the screen.

 With Prezi, you create a single document that is sort of like a poster that presents your topic.  I recommend keeping it simple with lots of pictures and few words.  You can decide what order you would like for things to play, embed YouTube videos, import images, group information, and format colors and themes.  You can also download your presentation and present it without being online. 

 The best way to learn how to use Prezi is to watch the tutorials on the Prezi website. As usual, parents should supervise children while online—Prezi allows anyone to post samples of their work.

Give it a try! See whether this is a tool that will help the next time your child is asked to do a presentation in school.  It is a way to do an impressive, creative presentation.  And it’s free.


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"Chore Charts" Help Curb the Nagging

Do your children do chores in your household?

Do they do them willingly and without being asked and reminded repeatedly?

Take heart; mine don't either.

To that end, I wish I'd had "chore charts" to use with my son and daughter when they were younger. At SchoolFamily.com, we've created some terrific chore charts that can be printed out and used with children as young as 3 and as old as 17. Each of our six charts is tailored to a specific age group: 3-4 year olds; those ages 5-6; 7-9; 10-12; 13-14; and 15-17. Best of all, they're customizable with your own chores in addition to the ones we've listed.


Over the years, I tried using "job" charts with my kids, but they were never as clear and specific as these charts. Mine were rudimentary. I taped them to a wall or pinned them to a bulletin board, amid great fanfare with my kids, and they were quickly forgotten after a week or so (sometimes less).


I've heard child development experts—and my husband—insist that having kids be responsible for chores makes them more responsible in general. It also shows them that taking care of a household and having it run smoothly (well, as smoothly as it can) only works if everyone does their part.


Without the use of chore charts, the routine in my household occasionally runs like a well-staged, highly emotional melodrama, with performances several night a week:



It's late afternoon on a weekday:

ME [To my high school daughter, age 16]: "Sweetie, would you please unload the dishwasher and clean the kitty litter after you finish your homework?"

HER: [Initial silence]

ME: [Voice rising slightly] "Did you hear me?"

HER: [Voice rising significantly] "I know. I HEARD you and I said I WOULD."

ME: "Well, okay. I didn't hear you respond."

HER: "I'll do it in a MINUTE."



Three to four hours pass and it's now mid-evening:

ME: [Spoken in a sing-songy voice, trying to avoid a meltdown] "Sweetie, the dishwasher and kitty litter still need your attention." 

HER: "Man, why do I have to do EVERYTHING around here?"

ME: [Restraining my urge to suddenly have her become homeless] "We all do our part, and if you'd just done it when I'd asked, you'd ..."

HER: [Interrupting me] "I WAS BUSY." 

ME: [Heavy sigh. Awash with feelings of ineffectiveness as a parent; fury at this child; realization that if I'd just done the chores myself, they'd have been done hours ago; and annoyance at myself for even considering doing them myself. Repeat.]



ME: [Note to self: "PRINT OUT chore charts.]


Want to end this well-rehearsed melodrama at your own house? Check out our chore charts.

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The Kids Are Back To School and Mom is Back To The Gym!

It’s 8 a.m., and the kids are all backpacked and out the door. I enjoy the quiet of that moment every single weekday.

Don’t get me wrong—massive crazy happens between 6:30 and 8 a.m.! But … we are slowly taking control of our morning routine (we are, I swear!). However, the after school rat race with one freshman and two active elementary kids apparently isn’t going to be tamed anytime soon because the beast changes every week!


I’m staging “Operation: Take Back my Mornings!”


I could hang around enjoying a hot cocoa, schedule a pedicure with a friend, or even get busy and make those East Coast phone calls I’m behind on. Nope. Not me.


Now that the kids are back to school, MOM is Back to the Gym!


I saw this bumper sticker the other day: “A Fit Mom is a Powerful Mom.” And I totally agree. Only I haven’t been fit or powerful or even able to walk up my stairs without huffing and puffing for months! I’m ready to get my powers back. I’m not about losing a bunch of pounds; I’m about defeating those dang STAIRS. Plus it helps tremendously that I have a good friend who is even more motivated to fire up her mom-fierce. I highly suggest finding a walking buddy, a gym treadmill friend or even an online group that will give you motivation or competition or whatever gets your blood pumping.


When I don’t have a chatty friend to make the minutes less boring, my new favorite Pandora station is “I Will Survive” … and I dare you to listen to that song and NOT crank the dial up to a fast walk or (ack!) even a jog! The other songs that magically appear are so fabulously disco that you can’t help but smile and keep walking (yes, I’m the one on the corner elliptical doing the hand signals to YMCA; don’t judge me).


Another favorite treadmill pastime is to download library books on my phone or MP3 player. Lately the best ones I’ve listened to are:


“The Help” — Kathryn Stockett (Oh.My.Wonderful.Book. Worth the movie—but DON’T miss the book!)


“Cutting For Stone”— Abraham Verghese (If you haven’t read this I feel very sad for you. My mostest favorite book in 2010)


“Hell Gate”— Linda Fairstein (This was a brain candy type of whodoneit, but I loved the voices of the narrator.)


Audio books and your favorite tunes are also great for getting your groove on while cleaning the house. I’ve been known to work up a sweat while dancing with my vacuum cleaner!


Come on, Moms, while those kids are at school get your powerful back! Pedicures can wait; I say a fit mom is a happy mom, and happy moms will raise happy children.



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For all who've been bullied ...

SchoolFamily.com's Guest Blogger this week is Rebecca Mooney, M.Ed., the Executive Director of the Center for Education in Violence Prevention based in Melrose, MA. The Center offers comprehensive bullying prevention training for staff, students, and parents.

Several weeks ago my agency sponsored a bullying prevention seminar featuring young adult novelist Megan Kelley Hall.


Megan has become a champion in the campaign against bullying, and has co-edited a new anthology titled, “Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories.” If you haven’t thought about middle school (or junior high, as the case may be) in some time, trust me —this book will bring it all back.  The essays are intensely personal and compelling, written from the perspective of victims, bullies and bystanders.


One of my favorites is by Lara Zeises, a self-described “fatty” growing up.  She tells the story of being teased relentlessly about her size by two boys throughout middle and high school, her cheeks burning with shame as they laughed and called her cruel names.  She actually changed schools and didn’t see them again, but still carried the pain, humiliation, and anger into her adult life. Recently, she decided to search for her former tormentors. After finding one of them through Facebook, she summoned all her courage and told him off. She explained how damaging the harassment had been—and what a jerk he was—but that despite it all, she was now a successful author. So there! He wrote back that if he did, in fact, do those awful things to her he was truly sorry, but said he actually didn’t remember her. 

To me this story is such a vivid and poignant illustration of one of the points we teach in our programs for students, staff and parents: Bullying really is about the bully’s need for empowerment, and the victim can be anyone. The bully picks the easiest target, and uses the victim to gain status, power, and popularity. Based on this knowledge, we honestly tell bullying victims, “It’s about them, not you.”


Like many victims, however, Lara did not receive this message when she most needed it. Consequently, she was profoundly affected over a significant period of her life. It’s sad that no one realized what was happening and intervened so that she didn’t have to carry the burden alone.  If they had, it might have alleviated a lot of pain, and helped her move on much sooner.


SchoolFamily.com's Guest Blogger this week is Rebecca Mooney, M.Ed., the Executive Director of the Center for Education in Violence Prevention based in Melrose, MA. The Center offers comprehensive bullying prevention training for staff, students, and parents. Over the last 14 years, Rebecca has spearheaded and implemented a range of violence prevention programs in schools and the community, including bullying prevention, domestic and teen dating violence prevention, mentoring, peer mediation and peer leadership programs. She has served as a trainer, panelist, and guest speaker on bullying prevention and teen dating violence for conferences sponsored by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Child Advocacy Center of Boston, Riverside Counseling Center, and Children’s Hospital Boston, among others. In 2004 Rebecca was honored with the Unsung Heroine Award by the Massachusetts Commission on Women for her contributions to the field of violence prevention. She lives in Melrose with her husband and has two young adult daughters.


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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