SchoolFamily Voices

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

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It is normal for students to miss school because of illness. When an illness causes a child to miss more than a few days, it is difficult for him to get caught up when he returns. One of the hardest absences to handle is when a child misses school because of a concussion.

A concussion is caused by a hard hit to the head. I have seen kids get concussions when playing sports, just goofing off with one another, bumping their head on a cabinet, or from falling down. The symptoms vary depending on how hard and where they hit their head. Some kids are fine within a day, and others take several months before they are completely well. It is important to have a complete examination by a doctor after a blow to the head.  It is also important to follow the doctor’s orders after the injury. How well a child follows the doctor’s orders determines how quickly they recover.

The students I have helped after a concussion were out of school for several weeks. Once they returned, they were required to receive considerable accommodations to prevent a return of symptoms. Their doctor typically asks that they be allowed to attend shortened days for a while to make sure they are not too stressed out. This is difficult for students, because they want to get their work caught up as quickly as possible and the restrictions placed on them prevent them from working too hard. This makes them more stressed and emotional, which makes their symptoms worse. The number one thing to do to help them is to assure them that you (and their other teachers) will help them and will not let them fail because they have had to miss so much school.

If your child is recovering from a concussion, ask for a meeting with his teachers before he returns to school. Share the doctor’s orders with all his teachers so they can help figure out a way to gradually acclimate him back to normal classroom activities.

Common accommodations typically include limited screen time (such as computer, smartphone, projectors, videos, etc.), no exposure to loud sounds, and no physical activity. He needs to have permission to leave the classroom when his head starts hurting or he feels dizzy. He should only work for short periods of time before resting his brain.

Today’s classrooms typically rely heavily on screen time of one sort or another, so making these accommodations is difficult. I will write again next week on this topic and talk in more detail about how a teacher can modify a child’s work to make it possible to get caught up when under these restrictions.

To learn more about concussions and how they affect a child in school, read An Educator’s Guide to Concussions in the Classroom.


> Concussions in Youth Sports: When in Doubt, Sit It Out

> 10 Questions Parents Should Ask About Concussion Management in Youth Sports

My girlfriends, Mom friends, BFFs (whatever you want to call them), save my life on a regular basis.

This photo, at right, is from a recent birthday party for my friend Julie, the woman in the tiara (I’m sitting next to the birthday girl). We all had party assignments, and since she’s a total candy-head, everyone brought a different bag of her favorite sugar-high treat. There are always a lot of kids around when the moms get together, so for this occasion we opted to have a lunch at my house. We each purchased several of the birthday girl’s favorite food items from restaurants around town: a sandwich, an appetizer, or a random smoothie. Then we all shared the food finds for our lunch. We called it the “Julie-Smorgasbord!”

How exactly does a birthday party celebrating the guest of honor’s favorite foods save my life? It doesn't. But getting together often does! Pretty much any excuse will do for an impromptu gathering. Does anyone need a late night run to Walmart? Count me in!

We meet every Tuesday night for “Old Lady Basketball,” where we laugh (and run) for an hour. Afterwards, we sometimes head to one of our houses or maybe hit Denny’s—we figure we deserve to eat the calories that we just worked off! 

About once a month we hold “Book Club.” I say that with a grin because recently, when we realized no one was reading the books, we changed the name to just “Club.” Some suggested having a “magazine” reading club but the purists in the group (me) said NO WAY. (A parent-child book club is also a great idea.)

We create capers as often as we can invent them. About a year ago one mom was having her fourth baby. A “shower” didn’t quite fit, so we donned black clothing, fake moustaches, and stretched black panty hose over our heads, and “abducted” her away to a “Mom Party.”

And last summer we found out there is such a thing as “National Toilet Paper Day.” Who knew? Well we knew we couldn’t let that go by unheralded. We snuck out late and toilet-papered the house of one of our favorite grandmas in town! (Her husband was in on it and we cleaned the whole thing up the next day. We are Moms, after all!)

My husband has been traveling more in the past few months than he ever has in our nearly 20 years of marriage, and people often ask me how I do it. I simply say: I don’t do it alone! My mom-friends help me. (And it also helps that my kids are older now.) I also have to give a plug for my 14-year-old daughter who helps a ton (when she’s not going to play practice, that is).

But back to the girlfriends…we lovingly refer to ourselves as sister wives (don’t tell our husbands), but it’s true. If I need help with my younger kids so that I can attend an older child’s awards banquet, I have no less than 5 friends I can ask to watch them. And if I need adult conversation after a week of doing the single mom thing, I simply send out an email smoke signal (and a request for hot wings), and 8 women show up after my bedtime routine with the kids.

These late night chats, post basketball outings, and “Club" meetingts—or get-togethers for no reason at all, are literal life savers and I don’t regret a single bleary-eyed morning after!

BTW, guess what we have planned next? We’re excited because one of our gal-pals is engaged!!! Traditional wedding shower? Heck, no. We’re gonna throw the best little bachelorette party this town has ever seen! Shhh don’t tell her; it’s a HUGE surprise!

At SchoolFamily.com, we’ve got some exciting news…

We’re very pleased to announce the launch of Recipe Share, SchoolFamily.com’s new recipe section!

Looking for a great afterschool snack to made for—or with—your kids? Or how about one that older kids can make themselves? We’ve got ‘em.

Need some new ideas for your child’s school lunch box? We’ve got ‘em.

What about recipes for quick and easy weeknight meals for those evenings that seem completely taken up with kids’ afterschool activities? Or recipes for dinners that can be made ahead? We’ve got ‘em.

Crockpot recipes, recipes for those with food allergies, recipes for desserts, salads, pasta dinners and salads, dips, and side dishes? We’ve got ‘em all, plus some. In fact, we have more than 50 recipe categories from which you can choose to find just what you’re looking for!

And all of our recipes are printer-friendly!

Some of our recipes are from food bloggers you may already know, including weelicious.com and freshbaby.com. Others are from fairly new food bloggers—Organic Glory and Mummy’s Busy World.

And in an exclusive partnership, we have recipes from the Meal Makeover Moms. These two moms, who are both registered dietitians, take traditional recipes and make them over for better nutrition, without sacrificing taste! How about Healthier Hamburger Helper? Or Smiley Face Casserole? (See their lasagna makeover—Chock-Full-O-Veggies Lasagna—pictured above.) The Meal Makeover Moms section features dinner, afterschool and lunch box snacks, desserts, stews, and more.

But perhaps best of all, we welcome recipe submissions from you, our readers! Send us your family’s favorite recipes of all types—dinners to dips to desserts and more—and we’ll include them in our Recipe Share. Simply complete this easy online form, attach a photo of your completed dish (if you have one), and send it along to us! We’ll send you a link to your recipe once it’s posted!

Happy eating!

Carol Brooks Ball, editor



I’ll be 39 in a few weeks.

And—what a surprise—I have a few special wishes for my birthday. First, I want a pair of red boots. A little sparkle, a little kick to make my black boots jealous. And second, I want a new practical, yet “girly,” watch. I wear the time on my sleeve, non-stop. In the shower, to bed, to fancy occasions—everywhere, so it has to be functional and please, can it be pretty too?

There’s one more thing I want for my birthday. I want to stop feeling so old!?

Nearly 40 isn’t all that ancient after all!

Okay, yes the usual aging suspects are tiptoeing in. At night I can’t read the CNN news ticker. My weight is getting harder to control; I almost lost those 10 pounds from the beginning of the school year, but a few pounds always find their way back home to my hips no matter what I try. My husband will tell you my hearing is starting to slide—I’ll tell you I don’t always WANT to hear him! And wrinkles, what is that about? SO not fair.

But the thing that is really disturbing me—making me think I’m officially crossing over—is my memory. Or, my “lack thereof” lately? Plus it doesn’t help that my daughter is playing the song “Memory” from Cats over and over on the piano for an upcoming recital! Good luck getting that out of your head!

My husband has been traveling so much in the last 5 months, he’s beginning to resemble George Clooney in the film “Up in the Air.” It’s really dragging on me as a not-quite “single mom,” which in turn drags on the kids. I’ve even hired an after school assistant to help me with some of the chaos when my husband is out of town. But, still? I’m forgetting small things!

 A little taste of what I mean...

 I left a pork tenderloin out all night that was “thawing for just a few hours.” I completely forgot to put it in fridge before bedtime. The next morning I trashed it, too worried about salmonella to cook it.

 One morning I walked out to start the car and realized I had left the garage door open all night. I should have written a sign that said: “Burglars welcome from 2-4 a.m.; the good stuff is in the back!”

 I bought really nice steaks the other day, on sale, intending to save and freeze them for the next Sunday dinner…only, a few days later I noticed a strange grocery sack sitting on the garage floor. It was over by the deep freezer…yeah, it was the steaks. I had walked over to the deep freezer, set the bag down, opened the freezer, probably rearranged frozen peas and carrots, and then “distraction(?)”  took over and I left the steaks to babysit themselves while I meandered into the house. I was so disgusted with myself!

 Is it really my memory though? (All alone in the moooon-light?)

This is the stuff that’s making me crazy. Is it really my age? I think it’s more like I'm overwhelmed with the kids’ never ending needs, my own work, and, you know, all the household tasks like remembering to take out the trash! Why can’t I simply remember to walk through the kitchen one last time before bedtime?!

Maybe my new birthday watch will have extra alarms for Forgetful, Overwhelmed Mommy Syndrome? Is that asking too much? Otherwise I’m taking my new boots and going for a long walk! (NOT in the moonlight.)


UPDATE: 03/12/12

Have you heard about “Bully”?

If you haven’t, you will. And then you can decide if you'll take your kids to see it. "Bully" is a documentary film produced by the Weinstein Co., which tells the stories of what really happens to children—and their families—as a result of relentless bullying.

Filmmakers followed three students who are bullying victims—Alex, 12, from Iowa; Kelby, 16, from Oklahoma; Ja’meya, 14, from Mississippi—over the course of the 2009/2010 school year. They also followed David and Tina Long from Georgia, parents of 17-year-old Tyler Long who ended his life after years of being bullied; and Kirk and Laura Smalley of Oklahoma, whose 11-year old son Ty took his own life after years of bullying abuse. The film follows Kirk as he starts Stand for the Silent, an anti-bullying program comprised of a series of silent vigils, which he hopes will draw attention to the bullying crisis in the U.S. and lead to anti-nationwide bullying legislation.

The film won’t be released until Friday, March 30, but it’s been in the news lately because of the “R” rating it was given by the Motion Picture Association of America—a rating that has infuriated producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein appealed the rating to the MPAA three weeks ago, but the organization refused to lower the rating to PG-13 due to the film’s harsh language—language that reportedly consists of 6 uses of the “F” word used during a bullying incident caught on film. What do these rating actually mean? According to the MPAA’s ratings site, an “R” rating means: “Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.”A PG-13 rating means: “Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.”



 SchoolFamily.com wants to hear from you!

Do you feel the film's rating should be changed? If the rating was PG-13 would you let your middle school and/or high school child see it? If the R rating stands, will you take your child to see the film?

Please share your thoughts with us by commenting below!


Numerous teen groups, non-profits organizations, and individual teens are lobbying the MPAA on Weinstein’s behalf, by collecting signatures, launching Facebook pages, releasing statements, and Tweeting about the film’s rating and why they want it changed to PG-13. Why? So that middle school and high school kids can go see the film. As any parent of a ‘tween or teen knows, attending a movie with Mom and Dad just isn’t cool. Perhaps more importantly, a PG-13 rating would mean the movie could be shown in schools. One high school student collected thousands of signatures and was invited to appear on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” this week, where DeGeneres pledged her support to the ratings appeal and signed the petition herself. “I think it’s an important movie and I think it can save lives,” DeGeneres said.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper has also supported the film, featuring it on a recent episode on his show. Cooper is a longtime advocate of anti-bullying programs.   

In the meantime, Weinstein has announced that his company may consider releasing the film without a rating, effectively boycotting the MPAA. That, in turn, has infuriated theatre owners. In response to Weinstein’s statement, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has warned Weinstein that it will urge its members to give the film an “NC-17” rating—“No One 17 and Under Admitted”—which is even more restrictive than the film’s current R rating.

Since many students who are learning disabled are often targets of cruel bullying, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), a sponsor of the documentary, is joining the call for the rating change.

In an email sent to SchoolFamily.com, James Wendorf, executive director of the NCLD, had this to say about the film’s R-rating:

“[The] National Center for Learning Disabilities fully supports efforts to reduce the R rating currently assigned to the film ‘Bully’ and bring it to a broader audience. Bullying is nothing less than a crisis in this country, with 13 million American children waking up every morning fearing abuse from their peers.

“It is a fact NCLD knows all too well. Sixty percent of children with learning disabilities and other special needs say they have been seriously bullied, and that is why we joined with other special needs advocacy organizations to provide support for this vital film.

“Until parents understand this crisis and children and teens see and own the consequences of their behavior, there is little hope for improvement.”

UPDATE: 03/12/12, 10:52 A.M.: Due to the urging of Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and other members of Congress, former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), now the president of the MPAA, will take part in a panel discussion this Thursday, March 15 in Washington, D.C., along with “Bully” producer Harvey Weinstein and director Lee Hirsch. The film will be shown to a group of teachers and principals invited from schools in the Washington area, followed by their participation in the panel discussion.

Tips for Parents on How to Prevent Bullying

The National Center for Learning Disabilities realizes that bullying involves not only the victim, but also the one doing the bullying, and those who witness the bullying but don’t do anything about it. These tips from the NCLD can help parents figure out what to do:

  • Stop bullying before it starts. Let everyone at your child’s school know that you are on the prowl for signs of bullying and that you expect everyone else to do the same. Preventing and stopping bullying is a shared responsibility, and one that is not voluntary. Ask to see the school-wide no-bullying policy and ask that the details regarding recognizing and reporting, consequences, and prevention activities be shared frequently with parents and faculty.
  • Use the word “bullying” with your child. Make sure they know what it means. They may not know that the hurtful behavior they are being forced to endure is wrong, mistaking it for “attention” or “acceptance” from peers. If your child is the one doing the bullying, help him to understand the negative impact it has on his status. And if your child is a bystander when bullying is taking place, help her to know what options she has—doing nothing not being one of them—without fear of being targeted herself.
  • Help your child know what to do. Assure him that he will not get in trouble. The perceived consequences of “tattling” could be keeping your child from sharing his bullying experiences. Help your child know the difference between “tattling” and “reporting an incident of bullying.” This is equally important for the children who are being victimized, those who are the aggressors, or those who are bystanders.
  • Know your rights and don’t be afraid to exercise them. The U.S. government, under both education and civil rights law, recognizes that bullying and harassment are forms of discrimination. Include a goal about bullying in your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP); ask about bullying at every parent teacher conference; and if bullying issues are not properly addressed, be prepared to file a formal complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

For more information on bullying, SchoolFamily.com has an entire section on bully awareness and prevention, with numerous articles and blog entries including what to do if you child is being bullied; tips about preventing cyberbullying; what to do if your child is the bully; and more. Readers may also benefit from reading Fast Facts on Bullying, produced by the Office for Civil Rights. 


 A public school district in Minnesota made news this week when officials there ended a federal investigation, and a civil lawsuit filed by six teenage students, by agreeing to a series of changes that will make schools take notice and get involved when gay students are bullied.

 The New York Times article reported that over a 2-year period, the school district had nine students commit suicide after the teens were bullied because they were gay—or were perceived to be gay. Despite these tragedies, the school maintained a position of “neutrality,” whereby teachers had to be “neutral” on questions from students regarding sexual orientation. In other words, the teachers were prevented from being allowed to show support to, or prevent bullying of, students who identified themselves as gay or questioning their orientation.

 The new agreement was signed by officials with the Anoka-Hennepin School District and Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the six students who sued the district.

 Tenets of the agreement include the following:

  • The district’s “neutrality” policy rescinded and replaced by a policy to “affirm the dignity and self-worth of students regardless of race, sexual orientation, disabilities, or other factors”
  • Strengthen ways to prevent, detect, and punish bullying based on gender or sexual orientation
  • Hire a full-time “harassment prevention” official
  • Increase availability of mental health counseling
  • Identify harassment “hot spots” in and outside of the middle and high schools

 According to the Times’ article, conservative Christian parents in the district who had formed a group called the Parent’s Action League in order to keep the neutrality policy, called the agreement a “travesty.”

 Does your school district have specific policies for preventing the bullying of gay students?  Are teachers allowed to answer students’ questions about sexual orientation?

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Language is more than the words we speak to one another. There are many parts of the language process and if all are working as expected, we give little thought to it. But if a person is struggling with language, they may have a language learning disability (LLD).

Children with a language disability struggle with language in a variety of ways. Some have trouble saying what they want to say: They have trouble finding the right words, talk really fast, have an unusual cadence when they speak, or simply sit there trying to figure out how to get their point across. While I have worked with children like this, it is more common that the issue is related to writing their thoughts on paper. They may have no trouble understanding or telling me the answer, but if I ask them to write it down they can’t do it. Children who cannot express what they know either orally or in writing are said to have a problem with expressive language.

Oral and written language impairments are easy to see. But, when the language problem happens inside a child’s brain, it is harder to diagnose. For example, some children have a hard time processing what you say to them or what they read. They may be slow processors or struggle with the syntax of language. They may not understand the subtle differences in expression, especially if there is sarcasm involved.  They might have trouble organizing their thoughts, storing them in memory, or pulling them back out of memory. At times we refer to these children as having a receptive language problem because they have difficulty taking in language and making sense of it. But, it is really more than just not understanding what others say, or what they read. It can also involve thoughts generated by the child himself.

Dyslexia is a specific language learning disability that can manifest itself in a variety of ways. If you want to learn more about it, read my earlier post, How Do I Know If My Child is Dyslexic?

Language is extremely complex. Therefore, disabilities that relate to it are also complex. LDOnline offers an excellent explanation of a variety of language disorders and how they affect a child in school.

If you suspect your child has a language learning disability, you need the help of a psychologist or a speech and language pathologist who is trained in diagnosing and treating these disorders. There is no quick fix, but with proper help these children can be very successful in school and life.

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No one told me teenage girls are so messy! (And stinky?)


My oldest daughter is downright disgusting when it comes to her room and her laundry, and I’m scared to look under her bed. Her little sister (poor thing shares a room with the hoarding/moping/older girl monster), however, is a neat freak and the two DO NOT a happy shared-bedroom sisterhood make!! (The photo shown is an actual picture of my daughters’ shared bedroom. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.)


Movies and sitcoms make it clear that teenage boys are the stinky ones, not girls, and so I was led to believe that:


  • Boys leave slices of pizza to mold under blankets
  • Their gym socks get up and walk away on their own
  • In general, body odors from boys are much worse than girls


Well, I beg to differ.


Girls stink. Sorry, there’s no easy way to share this with you. The teen thing sets in STRONG by 14 years old and a mom can nag and whine, but no matter how many showers—and despite industrial strength deodorant—there is still a just-woke-up, morning girl smell that could knock over a hippo.


I once heard a child psychology expert talking about teens and bedrooms. He said you really have to think about their rooms like hotel rooms. When you’re on vacation you aren’t there for the hotel room; instead, you’re all about the stuff to do in the city you’re visiting. And it’s like that for teens. Their bedroom often is simply a stopover and a refueling place for the next “thing.”


My teen lately spends more time at school and at play practice than at home (including sleeping). And since she has nowhere near enough time to do that plus her chores and her schoolwork, and spend time with the family—which is more important to me right now than a super clean room—I’m trying to let it go.  


A lot of that will change, however, when her high school musical is over (they’re staging a production of “Anything Goes!”) We’ll get her back in all her smells-like-teen-spirit glory in a month, after the play!


So which is it, SchoolFamily.com readers? Do girls win the "Teen Disgusting Bedroom Award" or is it boys who have a corner on the reeking stench market?

Our hearts and thoughts go out to the residents of Chardon, Ohio after the tragic shootings at Chardon High School on Monday, Feb. 27. As of this writing, three of the five teenage victims have succumbed to their injuries. TJ Lane, identified as the shooter, reportedly told police he’d been bullied at the school.


Tragedies like this raise myriad questions and can trigger grief reactions from children—and from parents as well. How should your handle your child’s confused feelings? How do you reassure your child that her school is safe (assuming you think it is safe)? Does her school have a strong anti-bullying program, and does it go far enough?


Perhaps the most pressing question for parents is how to help their child comprehend and interpret such tragic, frightening news. Our SchoolFamily.com experts say that parents should begin by managing, as much as possible, what their children see and read about the event in the media—on television, in newspapers, via the Internet, and on social media sites. While children may be reading at an advanced level, few are emotionally prepared to handle details of tragic and catastrophic events. Read more about this in Help Manage Anxiety About Current Events, on SchoolFamily.com. And regardless of the cause, parents can help their children handle overall anxiety by reading Help Kids Learn to Manage Stress.


What if your child is being bullied? Or—what if your child is the bully? Start by reading our articles on bullying prevention, which include information about preventing your child from being a bully’s victim, to teaching your child empathy.  To protect your child from online bullying known as cyberbullying, learn the red flags to watch for in this SchoolFamily.com guest blog post by bullying prevention expert Dr. Michele Borba.


If your suspect (or know) that your child is a bully, read the no-nonsense tips about what to do in this two-part guest blog post by Annie Fox, author, online educator, and host of Cruel’s Not Cool, an anti-bullying online forum.


In my former life I was a molecular biologist. I know. Weird huh?


Except working in a lab is a lot like, well… cooking. Mixing up recipes (only much more precise than a dash of this and pinch of that), and growing vats of various bacteria and other stinky stuff.


But in reality, I haven’t seen the inside of a working lab since the turn of the century. The closest I get is laughing at the folks on CSI with their fancy equipment, pristine labs, and lightning speed with which they “sequence a human genome”...um yeah, NOT something that happens overnight people.


Yet try as I might to prevent it, I still find “science projects” growing in my fridge! Plus often you can find me experimenting on a new cake recipe, tweaking the ingredients just enough to fit my “dessert” hypothesis better. (I’ll be testing out a new banana/chocolate cake theory later tonight!)


I moved into full-time-mom mode when my oldest was about 18 months. Yes, I chose to become a SAHM. (Note: the recognizable abbreviation for "Stay At Home Mom" had not yet been invented.) Two babies later, and then two states later, my youngest was finally old enough to enter kindergarten. In case you’re confused, I am NOT one of the moms you’d catch outside the first day of class with tissues. No. I was more likely headed out the door to my well-deserved first day of school pedicure!



I have been “working from home” for the past 3 years. I’m thinking about having desk plates made that say: WAHM (Work At Home Mom). And my work? Well, I basically fell into this thing called blogging. I write on my own blog, GoodNCrazy.com. I’m also the “Good N Crazy Mom” blogger here at SchoolFamily.com, and I work with a handful of small clients, doing project management for their social media marketing. And I’ll be darned if I’m not having a total blast! Best of both worlds, as the saying goes.


I pay a tidy share of the family mortgage and last year my biggest goal was to buy (with my own money) a fabulous desk! (Check.) I’m enjoying it right now as I sip my morning cocoa and type away.


However, a problem has arisen in that my children’s afterschool needs are heavily eating into my “work at home” time. I’m talking carpooling and piano schlepping and late evening dinner delivery to starving teens at their play rehearsal! And my husband’s recent increase in whirlwind around-the-world travel has created a level of stress in my world that I can only compare to having a newborn again.


Fast forward to my husband’s suggestion: Hire an assistant. A what? Me?


But I’m a WAHM? We don’t need no stinkin’ help. We do it ALL. I create fabulous Valentine family dinners, I volunteer with Cub Scouts, I keep my daughters dressed modestly, and pay attention to their hobbies and talents. Isn’t it against the code of WAHM ethics to hire an assistant?!


Well, I did it.


A month ago, my husband was gone for 3 weeks straight. And it finally pushed this proverbial mom over the edge.


I hired Brooke, a college kid (pictured in the above photo with two of my kids), to help me out in the afternoons for a few hours twice a week. (WOW, who knew what kind of savior that would be?) Let me tell you, I’m a cheapskate; I make those paid hours SING! I get more done in 3 hours than several days combined at times. And knowing dinner is often started, dishes are tidied, and I’m not stressing because my freshman had a change in plans and needs to be picked up—“right NOW! Mom!”—is a huge relief on several levels.


Oh and no one’s complaining when cupcakes magically appear upon return from Scouts!


I’ve officially changed my tune. I now believe a home assistant for a WAHM who “thinks” she can do it all is the sweetest melody I’ve heard in months!


What do you think? Have I crossed over the unwritten stay-at-home-mom-rules?


Am I in danger of losing my WAHM “street cred”?





Dear 11-year-old daughter,


You are smart, cute, witty, and have a spirit about you not usually found in a girl your age.


Earlier this year when you ran for student government and easily won the “popular” vote for vice president of your elementary school, I was amazed. Fifth grade class subjects glide into your brain like you were born with them. I realize school isn’t always challenging, but I’m impressed with how you deal with the occasional boredom by getting creative. Do you know that teachers (both school and Sunday school) reach out to tell me, “I love having your daughter in class, she has the best laugh.”?


Your art skills are more advanced than most kids twice your age! You have an eye for color and design that makes me jealous. Your desire is to organize your world and increase the beauty around you, and you make me proud to be your mom. 


You make friends with everyone, and everyone wants to be your friend. You are competent in both a large group of differing personalities and in a one-on-one setting with a socially slower friend. And I’ve stopped being surprised when you shine in a dance class and regularly win the “front and center” recital spot (although being short could have something to do with that, I’ll admit.) In gymnastics you excel, and in the schoolyard monkey bars grow out of your arms!


You are a mother’s dream daughter.


HOWEVER. I’m worried. (I’m a mother after all.)


I’m worried about your beautiful confidence blossoming into an ugly shade of pride.


I want what every mother wants for her daughter: I wish you happiness in your 5th grade world and in junior high, high school, and far into college. I want you to love yourself and find profound pleasure within, never relying on others to determine the best in you, but to discover for yourself where and how you will sparkle.


Please cultivate empathy early. When an algebra concept is easy for your brain to attack and you realize that others might be struggling, I hope you’ll ask if you can help—instead of saying out loud. “Gee, that was easy for me, what’s wrong with you?”


When a friend is struggling because she doesn’t understand why her group of gal pals isn’t talking to her, I hope you can see the bigger picture and help her through the trial.


Because putting yourself in others’ shoes is a talent that will help you the most in your life.


I know boys are imminent in your future. And I want you to meet and fall in love with a spouse who will love you and cherish you, and of course I want grandbabies…but not for about 15 years!


I promise you will meet your husband in college (not high school)! High school is for learning about yourself and for figuring out your personal style and your desires. A 16 year old may think she’s in love, but she’ll also think she’s in love at 17, and again at 18, and again and again. High school is for dating! Remember to have fun!


You know I’m your mother and that I worry about every tiny tidbit. Simply said, this is what I most want for you:


While knowing you are incredible with almost everything you touch,

I want you to be mindful of others first and to always remember

to stuff your pride under your pillow!



Your Mother


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Ever try to wake a sleeping teenager? It’s a time-consuming undertaking that’s frustrating for everyone involved, especially on early morning weekdays before the sun is even up.


That’s the reality for many parents and teens Monday through Friday, in order for the teen to get to school on time—and we’re talking school start times between 7-7:30 a.m. For those who must catch a school bus, back up about 20-30 minutes earlier, and we’re talking the wee hours.


Take our Poll: Does School Start Too Early for Your Teen


There’s been a fair amount of conclusive research and expert opinion that teenagers need more sleep rather than less.  [Listen for the applause and the “I told you so” looks from nearby teens.] But in many school districts across the country, school start time for teens—and even some middle school tweens—is getting earlier and earlier.


Since everyone is cost cutting these days, especially local governments and school districts, many schools say they’re starting earlier due to budget-friendly tiered busing schedules. This means that older kids—high school and middle schoolers—are picked up earliest, during the first tier of morning busing runs (they’re also dropped off earliest in the afternoon as well). Next come older elementary school students, and in the last tier are kindergarteners, who often are picked up by their buses as late as 8:30 a.m.


Do you struggle with getting your teen up and out the door 5 days a week? (Maybe more if your child has clubs, sports, and/or job commitments on the weekends.) And do you worry that your teen's lack of adequate sleep may be detrimental to his grades?


If so, take heart. Two women decided enough is enough and formed a not-for-profit organization to address the issue. StartSchoolLater.net, co-founded by Maribel Ibrahim and Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D., is staffed by an 8-member steering board (the women occupy 2 of the 8 seats) and a 12-member advisory board, and advocates exclusively for later school start times.


More than simply presenting solid research findings and hosting the conversation, however, this group is seeking nationwide legislation to mandate that no public schools start before 8 a.m. 


What do you think? (I know my high-schooler would heartily agree!)

Young students love Valentine’s Day and all the treats that go with it. This year try something different. Instead of letting your child eat those small Conversation Hearts, use them for some easy, fun, and colorful math practice! Here are four ways to practice “Heart Candy” math:


1. Estimation. Empty a bag of small Conversation Hearts onto a plate or into a small clear jar. Have your child guess how many there are. Write down her guess, and let her count to see how close she came to the correct amount. Help her count if she has trouble. Then go to…


2. Skip counting. Put the hearts in sets of two. Let your child count by “two’s” to get the total. Ask him to tell you if the total is “odd” or “even.” Then take some away. Next, have him put the hearts in sets of five. Count by fives to determine how many are left. Take some more away. Finally, put the remaining hearts in sets of 10. Count by tens to get the new total.  Ask, “What was the fastest, most efficient, way to count the candy?” Counting by tens, of course!


3. One More, One Less. Use the sets of 10 hearts to help your child visualize easy addition and subtraction. Count the hearts by 10. Count forward to practice plus 10, and then backward to practice minus 10. Then try “one more, one less.” For example, if 20 plus 10 hearts equal 30, what would 20 plus 11 be? (20 + 10 =30, so 1 more = 31) Move the hearts to show the new answer. Conversely, if 20 plus 10 equals 30, how many do I have left if I give you one? (20 + 10 = 30 – 1=29.) Take one away to show 29.


4. Graph It. Group the remaining hearts into colors. Place one of each color across the bottom of a piece of paper. Stack the same color hearts above each other, in a column. When done, check the graph to see which color hearts were the “most,” and which were the “least.”


Use Valentine candy as an educational tool to help keep sugar level intake low, and math levels very high!




 Valentine’s Day is around the corner. What’s a busy mom to do? After throwing all our creativity (and plenty of Pinterest searching) into kids’ Valentine’s Day friend cards, I have no time to find a fabulous gift for my sweetheart. Instead I’m thinking we should create a wonderful family-fun night with dinner, candles, pink cupcakes, and call it a “Valentine Family Date”?


And if we do, does it mean romance is dead?


Oh wait… Valentine’s Day is on a Tuesday?! Rewind. Scratch the homemade menu and fancy decorations. Tuesday afternoons=non-stop chaos and driving; piano lessons (round trip times 2); extra afternoon trips back to pick up the teen from play practice; and little boy has chess. What am I forgetting? Something… Oh yeah Tuesday means “old lady basketball” night. And I’m not giving that up for Valentine’s Day!


Time to send out a Valentine Mayday! (Do they make heart shaped pizzas? Blogger Brooke Leigh does; see her pizza photo above!


My GoodNCrazy Valentine’s Day game plan for this year includes:

Plan Ahead—The night before, rope the kids into creating a special dessert for our Valentine Family Date on Feb. 14. We’re choosing between a giant heart shaped cookie; Pink Lemonade Cake (my vote!); or tri colored cherry-chocolate cupcake brownies. Or, it could be any one of these equally delish sounding recipes for Valentine’s Day found on SchoolFamily.com’s Pinterest page.


Order Pizza For Dinner—Everyone wins with pizza. Mom can relax, and kid bellies are happy. (Another option would be to purchase store bought pizza dough and let all create their own mini pizzas with favorite toppings. Heart-shaped, optional.)


Keep Romance Alive with a Bit of Surprise—I’ll warn his secretary in advance that I’m planning a surprise attack on my husband’s office. Before he gets there, Love Bomb his door with heart Post-it notes, then leave a Valentine Card and treat on his desk, and, finally, show up with a “picnic” lunch from his favorite take-out joint.


Adult Time on the Weekend—I bought Friday night play tickets for a community theater (my sweetheart has a soft spot for local drama). The babysitting arrangements are already made, and two other couples are meeting us for dinner before the play!


See, who says romance is dead? You can have it all! Family time AND a hint of romance.


How do you fit in romance for Valentine’s Day?


I wrote an earlier blog post about teaching children how to accept responsibility for their actions.


In that post I suggested that when your daughter says, “Mrs. Johnson got me in trouble,” you might help her reword her statement in this format, “I got in trouble with Mrs. Johnson because….”


Very often children try to deflect blame onto another person. Here are other examples of similar situations, and how to help reword the statement to place responsibility in the appropriate place:


  • “I couldn’t do the math homework because my teacher didn’t show me how.” This places the blame on the teacher. Help your child reword the statement to, “I couldn’t do the math homework because I don’t know how.” This leads to solving the problem by figuring out what is confusing.


  • “All my friends are [were] doing it.” In this case, your child is trying to make you question your judgment, feel guilty, or take the blame. They may also be trying to blame everyone else for something that happened. Help your child by rewording her statement to, “Why can’t I do it?” This is much better, because it may lead to a discussion of why it isn’t a good idea. Depending on the situation, the statement may need to change to, “I didn’t think about what I was doing because my friends were doing it, too.”


  • “Sally was talking, too!” This statement could be changed to, “I thought it would be okay to talk because other people were.” Perhaps this will lead to discussing how to tell the difference between appropriate times to talk and inappropriate times.


  • “I didn’t mean to hurt him. He got in my way.” This is a really important one. Children get too rough at times and someone gets hurt. Perhaps this should change to, “I wasn’t very careful, and I hurt him.” After that, you can talk about what went wrong, how to prevent it in the future, and how to apologize.


As a parent, you are in charge of your child’s safety and wellbeing. You cannot be with him at all times to help with every decision, so he needs to learn to think before acting.


When you see him not accepting responsibility for his actions and trying to blame others, remember that your role is to teach him how to be responsible for himself. He needs to understand the link between the choices he makes and the consequences of those choices. I like to ask students, “Whose behavior can you control?” Then, I help them reword their statement. This helps students learn to accept the consequences of their actions and think about personal responsibility.


Making the decision to medicate your child for attention problems is extremely difficult. I encourage you to consider it, however, if your child is struggling in school, and those who work with him have mentioned possible attention issues. I have seen children who were helped tremendously by taking medication for their attention disorder (ADD or ADHD) .



I do not mean to make it seem like an easy decision to make, but I want parents to know that it might be the right thing to do. Here are some things to think about when deciding whether medication is appropriate for your child.


  • Teachers should not recommend medication. This is a decision that you and your child’s doctor make. Teachers can let you know if your child is having attention issues, but they should not go beyond recommending that you have your child evaluated by a doctor.


  • If your child’s teacher mentions attention issues, ask: “How does my child’s behavior compare to the other students in the class?” Children are active and teachers new to the classroom may not know what is normal and what is too active for learning. You might also ask whether your child can pay attention in some situations and not others. If so, find out when the attention issues appear. Perhaps she is bored; if the work is too easy or too hard, the result can be boredom.


  • There are multiple options for attention medications. If you have tried one and it did not help your child or it had unacceptable side effects, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all attention medications will do the same thing. Some attention medications do not help some children, while the same medication might work fine for another child.


  • Some children have a great deal of problems learning, and they really do have an attention deficit disorder. For these children, medication can make a world of difference. I have seen children turn from failure to success almost overnight once they had an attention evaluation and started taking medication.


Please don’t misunderstand. I know this is a difficult decision and parents want what is best for their child. Teachers want what is best for their students, too. If attention issues are keeping a child from benefitting from school, then attention medications might be what’s best for the child.


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SchoolFamily.com guest blogger Dr. Michele Borba, Ph.D. is an expert and author on issues involving children and teens, parenting, bullying, and moral development. Her work aims to help strengthen children’s character and resilience; build strong families; create compassionate and just school cultures; and reduce peer cruelty.


There are red flags parents should watch for that might indicate your child is being cyber bullied. Here’s what to look for—and what to do.


Over the last year, we’ve read about horrific tragedies—bullycides—that appear to have been prompted by relentless peer bullying. One child tragically ending his or her young life due to vicious peer cruelty is one child is too many.


So let’s get savvy about electronic cruelty and the new digital age our kids are experiencing.


Online bullying is especially hurtful. Those horrid, vicious, untrue comments, with a quick click of a button, hit cyberspace. There is no telling how many other peers are hearing or reading those cold-blooded attacks.


Can you imagine being the recipient of such hate? Can you imagine if your child was that recipient?


The truth is those clicks are happening all too often, which is why parents must get educated.


Our first step to turn this around is to understand why cyberbullying is, and then recognize possible warning signs.


These are serious lessons — they might save a child. That’s my hope.


What is cyberbullying?


Cyberbullying is an electronic form of communication that uses cyber-technology  (the internet) or digital media (Facebook and other social media sites) to hurt, threaten, embarrass, annoy, blackmail or otherwise target another minor.


Every adult who interacts with kids—parents, educators, librarians, police, pediatricians, coaches, child care givers—must get educated about this lethal new form of bullying so they can find ways to help stop this.


One reason for such a dramatic increase in cyber-abuse is that it’s just so much easier to be cruel when you don’t have to do lash out with vicious insinuations face to face, and can instead do so anonymously!


Where we once thought we just had to protect children from adult predators using the Internet, but now we need to shield kids from one another.


Cyber-bullying is real, and incidents are happening at an increasing rate. Here’s a reality check:  National surveys by online safety expert Parry Aftab estimate that 85 percent of 12 and 13-year olds have had experience with cyber bullying. And 53 percent say they have been bullied online.


Many experts confirm that the psychological effects on our children can be as devastating, and may be even more so, than traditional bullying. Research proves that when kids are left unsupervised and without behavior expectations traditional bullying thrives. And we may not be doing as good a job as we think.


Another survey found that while 93 percent of parents feel they have a good idea of what their kids are doing on the Internet, 41 percent of our kids say they don’t share with us what they do or where they go online.


Open up that dialogue and listen!


Red flag warning signs of cyber bullying

As parents, we must do a better job of tuning into our kids. Read the warning signs of cyber bullying (below) and then talk with other parents, teachers, babysitters, counselors, and child workers about them. Print out the warnings and give them to coaches, Scout leaders, Boys and Girls Club leaders, doctors, school officials, and to teens and tweens. Send the list to the local newspaper to print. Ask your child’s school to post the list on their website. Get active and get your community involved. Here’s what to watch out for:


  • Your son is hesitant to be online or unexpectedly stops or avoids using the computer


  • Your daughter is nervous when an instant message, text, or email appears


  • Your son is visibly upset, angry, or depressed after using the computer or his cell phone


  • Your daughter hides or clears the computer screen or her cell phone screen when you enter or doesn’t want to talk about online activity


  • Your son starts using the computer when you’re not in the room


  • Your daughter keeps going back and forth to check the computer screen in shorter spurts


  • Your son withdraws from friends; wants to avoid school or peer activities; is uneasy about going outside in general; an/or pulls away from family members


  • Your daughter is suddenly sullen, evasive withdrawn, or has a marked change in personality or behavior


  • Your son has trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, is excessively moody, cries easily, or seems depressed


  • Suspicious phone calls, e-mails, and packages arrives at your home


  • Your child has a drop in academic performance or falls behind in schoolwork


 A key that you shouldn’t overlook is a sudden change—something that isn’t t your child’s “normal” behavior—that lasts daily, for at least two weeks. But even then, use your instincts! If you are concerned, don’t wait—get your child some help!


If it’s not cyber bullying …


What if these signs I’ve mentioned aren’t happening because your child is being cyber bullied? Regardless they clearly warrant looking into, as something is amiss with your child. It’s up to you to find out what’s going on. Dig deeper. Have a conference with your child’s teacher, coach, counselor, pediatrician, or seek the help of a trained mental health professional. The two saddest words I hear from parents are “If only …” Get help!


Don’t expect that your child will come and tell you about any harassment that might be taking place. Studies show that as our kids get older the likelihood they will come to us and “tell” declines even more. The top reason? Kids say they aren’t telling adults because “The adult didn’t listen or believe me when I did tell.” Sigh.


If you suspect your child’s friend or his peer is cyber-bullied, report it to school authorities and police.


I carry a photo of a young Canadian boy—a precious sixth grader—who ended his life because of bullying. His father gave me his son’s photo and asked me to promise to keep educating parents about the dangers of bullying. I promised that dad I would keep going and I’ve carried that photo for 10 years. It breaks me apart every time I look at it. So remember: Listen! Tune in! Believe!



Dr. Michele Borba, Ph.D., is an expert and author on issues involving children and teens, parenting, bullying, and moral development. Her work aims to help strengthen children’s character and resilience; build strong families; create compassionate and just school cultures; and reduce peer cruelty. Her research-based advice is culled from a career of working with more than 1 million parents and educators worldwide. She is the author of 22 parenting and educational books, and hosts Reality Check, a daily blog at http://www.micheleborba.com/blog/. Dr. Borba lives in Palm Springs, CA with her husband, and has three grown sons. Tips in this blog post were adapted by Dr. Borba from her book “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.”

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Children with learning disabilities (especially nonverbal LD) or attention issues often have social problems. I wrote about some of them in an earlier post. But, there is one problem that I didn’t mention in that blog that really needs to be discussed.


It’s a topic that no one likes to think about—or talk about—but it is very important and can possibly affect a person throughout his critical adolescent years. That problem is personal hygiene.


At my school we give reading and dictation support to students who need that help on homework and tests. As a teacher, it is common to work with a student who forgot to brush her teeth that morning. It is uncomfortable for the adult taking dictation, but it creates even bigger problems with her peers. I see this problem frequently.


Less often, I find myself working with a student with a strong body odor. His hair is oily, his clothes are disheveled, and he smells bad. This creates a huge social problem for him! As a teacher of learning disabled students, I have become more comfortable talking to my students about this. I think about how important friends are and how difficult it is to make friends when you are dirty.


If your child has these issues, here are the “talking points” I use. They generally work and thinking them through ahead of time can make the talk easier for you. I have never had this talk with a student who became upset with me, and every time I have talked about these issues with a student, her hygiene has improved.


Here’s what to say:


  • As you change from a child into an adult, you need to take more showers and use deodorant. This is because your body begins to produce hormones that create a strong odor. This is not your fault. It happens to everybody.


  • I have noticed that you often do not smell clean when you come to school.


  • Just using deodorant is not enough. You have to clean every square inch of your body using soap and warm water. When your body is going through the change from child to adult, you really need two showers a day.


  • You have to brush your teeth twice a day. When you go to bed at night, bacteria go to work on any food particles they can find in your mouth. These bacteria create a smell in your mouth. The only way to get rid of it is to brush your teeth.


  • Never come to school without taking a shower, using deodorant, and brushing your teeth.


  • Your friends will appreciate that you are clean and smell fresh when you get to school.


Once your child has heard the talk, ask her every morning whether she took a shower, used deodorant, and brushed her teeth. Eventually, she’ll get into the habit and won’t need the reminder. Remember that learning-disabled children often need explicit instruction on things that other children do without the additional support.


Wait a minute. Can this be true? Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have released the results of a study in which they found no relationship between children’s obesity levels and the availability of soft drinks, candy bars, and chips at school.


Are you as stunned—and perhaps annoyed—as I am? All the angst and hand wringing that’s gone into banning birthday cupcakes from 1st grade classroom celebrations and eradicating junk-food-dispensing vending machines from high schools has now all been for naught?


Well, not really. Junk food, after all, is junk: high fat, high-calorie, high salt, low-nutrition and, other than tasty, not good. But it turns out that a child’s propensity toward obesity has much more to do with what he eats at home— and after school, and on the weekends, and at friends’ houses—than the French fries he orders for his school lunch. That and the type of food he’s been eating all along. And let’s not forget portion size. 


Perhaps we all should have realized the folly of attacking schools as a source of the childhood obesity scourge. Or, perhaps it’s the only place where we felt we had some control?


What foods have been banned at your children’s schools? And after reading the results of this study, how do you feel about such bans?





My freshman daughter hates science. Okay, maybe hate is a too strong a word, but she sure doesn’t love it. And that’s all very sad for me since I have a biology degree and made university research my home for 8 years!  She works hard nonetheless and this year she’s studying biology.


Her class has been assigned to read the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. One thing is certain: She hates this book. I’m talking visceral, primal, with-all-her heart kind of hate. For the past 6 weeks my family has been swimming in an ocean of teen whining and complaining.


The non-fiction book starts out chronicling the life and times of the humble corn plant. And that’s the problem. It goes on and on (and on) about corn. It’s dry, boring and seriously stinky reading for a high school student more accustomed to Harry Potter and “Expelliarmus Spells.”


As part of the project, she had to look up 10 common food items in our pantry and note which had corn products in them. She realized nearly every item from crackers to soda pop to all sorts of condiments contained corn in one of its various forms. More interestingly, while completing this assignment, my younger two kids couldn’t help but listen and (shockers!) learn along with her.


The other night 3 teen girls were in my kitchen making peanut butter brownie bar (Carissa's  daughter is second from left in photo), surrounded by two of her friends. About half of the conversation during the mixing and baking consisted of bits and pieces related to the sinister corn syrups and corn stabilizers. (I think the propaganda is getting to them.)


So, for a book she (and all her friends) detest so much, why are they talking about it non-stop? I sent a note to her teacher after the brownie incident to share what I was hearing and seeing at home. And to thank her for creating the love/hate relationship my kid has with this book! How strange—could it be she’s actually learning from a dry, boring, and realistic book? OR, weirder, that she might like it?


The class hasn’t finished the book yet, but I plan to steal it from her when she’s done. I want to know why the unfortunate corn plant has become so despised. 


I do have one kid (my little boy) who loves all things science. And now seeing my daughter diving in and maybe liking a little of it as well, perhaps my genes did transfer after all?




Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?