Homework + The Homework Trap + Employment for Military Spouses

Kenneth Goldberg, author of The Homework Trap.
Topic: How to save the sanity of parents, students, and teachers.
Issues: The science behind homework difficulties; what homework looks like from the student’s perspective; understanding the reasons behind children’s homework problems; why the suggestions and solutions you’ve been offering may be doing more harm than good.

Neil McNerney, author of Home Work.
Topic: How to help your child without freaking out.
Issues: Recognizing your personal strengths (and weaknesses) and using harnessing them; identifying the individual ways your child deals with homework and other stressors; learning to use three powerful leadership techniques to help your child achieve success.

CAPT Brad Cooper, Executive Director of Joining Forces.
Topic: Employment programs for military spouses and veterans.
Issues: Ensuring the professional licenses will be accepted nationwide; job training for returning veterans; ensuring that high school AP coursework will be accepted even if the student transfers mid-year; and much more.

Soothing the Savage Infant and Toddler

We often think of the first few years of childhood as a time of total dependence on dad, mom, and anyone else who’s willing to change diapers and clean up vomit. But while that’s true, those early years are also a time when kids start hurtling towards independence, trying to do everything on their own, whether that’s crawling, walking, eating, reading, using the big-kid toilet, or anything else. This week we take a look at a number of toys that little ones will want to do on their own. You may need to be around to help or explain a few things, but even the smallest humans need some “me time.”

zing stikbotStikBots (Zing)
Got a budding animator in your home? If so, this is definitely for you (as long as your child is old enough not to put small things in his or her mouth). The idea is pretty simple: kids can pose the cute plastic figures and use the free StikBot Studios app (for iOS or Android only) to create their very own stop-action. Suction cups where hands and feet would be allow the StikBots to do all sorts of neat tricks. The Bots themselves don’t always hold their posed position and the app can be confusing for very little kids, but overall, it’s a really fun way to bring out your child’s creativity. Ages 4+. $9.99 for a kit with two Bots and a tripod. http://www.stikbot.toys/

sleeperheroSleeperHero (SleeperHero)
When kids are little, bedtime can be tough on everyone: they may be afraid of the dark or of being alone, and you may be afraid (then angry) that you’ll be up all night dealing with them. SleeperHero is a doll-book combo that’s aimed at eliminating some of that nighttime tension. The book is about a child who has trouble falling asleep in his own bed but is befriended by SleeperHero, who’s there to comfort and banish the bad guys and monsters hiding under the bed. For the parents, the doll has a light on his chest that glows red when it’s time for the child to stay in bed, then changes to green when it’s okay to run around and wake everyone up. Naturally, you can set both times. Ages 3+. $49.99. http://www.sleeperhero.com/

troboTROBO (Trobo)
If you’re completely opposed to exposing young children to technology, you’re out of luck here. But if you agree that technology can be wonderful in moderation and with an adult around, you’ll love TROBO. This friendly plush toy pairs with an iPad or iPhone and tells stories to your child. The stories subtly expose toddlers to science and technology concepts, and by incorporating your child’s name and a cartoon avatar, he or she becomes part of the story—and stays interested, which hopefully builds a love of learning. TROBO isn’t quite out yet, but he’ll be available just in time for the Holidays. Pre-order at http://www.herecomestrobo.com/

tiny love mobile + crib toyDouble-Sided Crib Toy and Hide and Seek Mobile (Tiny Love)
The crib toy attaches to the inside of your baby’s crib and lets your baby pound, bang, poke, and twist five colorful elements that produce a variety of sounds and effects. Flip it over and it switches to nighttime mode, with softly twinkling lights and soothing music.  The mobile is not your father’s (or even your) mobile. Sure it has adorable animals that gently go round and round, accompanied by music. But these figures also play hide and seek with your baby, sometimes hiding behind something that looks like a leaf, sometimes not. The mobile also gives your baby some control over the music. 0-24 months. Prices vary. http://www.tinylove.com/

Starting Middle School: Time for the Kids to Be Responsible

middle school desks

middle school desksDear Mr. Dad: I enjoy reading your columns every week. You recently wrote about kids making the transition from elementary to middle school. Your suggestion of keeping the communication lines open with teens is excellent.  More listening than talking is very good indeed. But I think you focused too much on the parents and how they should stay in touch with the teachers. What about the kids themselves? Don’t you think they should be taking more responsibility for their own education?

A: You’re absolutely right (and so are the other readers who wrote in with similar comments). Middle school isn’t just about the parents; kids should definitely be learning how to be more responsible and self-sufficient. However, early on, they may need a little help. Here’s are a few suggestions (including some from readers)

  • Be Interested: Ask what she’s learning or doing in the classroom, with friends, or on the sports field. Insist on answers that are longer than one word. When I pick my 7th grader up after school, she’s not allowed to fire up her phone until she’s talked to me for five minutes about her day. Knowing you’re interested in her education will help your child stay (or get) motivated to stay on top of things on her own. Other ways to do this include volunteering at the school and attending as many school events (including teacher conferences) as you can.
  • Organization: Many—but not all—schools require kids to have a calendar or planner for keeping track of their homework, projects, and due dates. But having a planner doesn’t mean your child will actually use it, or that completed assignment will make the arduous trip from his desk, into his backpack, and into the classroom. Keeping a checklist by your front door can help eliminate a lot of problems. (Lunch? Check. Soccer cleats? Check. Homework? Check. Are you sure? Yes. Really? Oh, wait, it’s on my desk….) Help your child find a system that works for him, whether it’s lists, separate binders, directories on the computer, or whatever.
  • Prioritizing: Talk with your child about how to identify tasks that need to be done right now vs. those that are due tomorrow or next week. If your middle-schooler tends to get frustrated or overwhelmed, help her break larger projects down into smaller, less-daunting chunks. Instead of doing 100 math problems in one sitting, divide them up and intersperse them with other assignments. Help her come up with a system that works for her and her individual learning style.
  • Routines: Having a set schedule for homework can keep your child on track. A short decompression period before diving in is good, as are regular breaks. If possible, stay nearby. That’s so you can help your child stay focused and be there in case she needs help with an assignment.
  • Praise: Grades offer pretty good feedback on how a child is doing in school, but not everyone gets good ones. It’s especially important that you acknowledge the time and effort your child put into a particular project or homework assignment even if the grades were less than ideal.
  • Trust but Verify: For the first part of the year, it’s okay to make frequent reminders and require your child to show you her progress every day. But don’t turn into a crutch—or a helicopter. Over time, make fewer and fewer reminders.
  • Consequences: As your active involvement and reminders decrease, your child’s freedom to make decisions will increase. Gradually, he’ll also learn to deal with consequences, which could range from winning an award to failing a class. It’s up to him.

Activities and Answers for Grandparents Today

Jan Eby, Laurie Mobilio, Lynn Noel, and Cindy Summers, coauthors of The Grammie Guide.
: Activities and answers for grandparents today.
Issues: Indoor and outdoor activities; reminders on child-development ages and stages; safety guidelines; grandparenting at a distance; music, books, and art for young children; and more.

Seeing Autism as a Unique Way of Being Human + The Grammie Guide

Barry M. Prizant, author of Uniquely Human.
A different way of seeing autism.
Issues: We usually see autism as a checklist of deficits. But in this groundbreaking book, one of the world’s leading experts in the field portrays autism not as a tragic disability but as a unique way of being human.

Jan Eby, Laurie Mobilio, Lynn Noel, and Cindy Summers, coauthors of The Grammie Guide.
: Activities and answers for grandparents today.
Issues: Indoor and outdoor activities; reminders on child-development ages and stages; safety guidelines; grandparenting at a distance; music, books, and art for young children; and more