Avoiding the Summer Brain Drain + Virtual Schooling + Unplugged Play

[amazon asin=1620576112&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Nicole Green, VP of Communication, Carson-Dellosa Publishing, publisher of Summer Bridge Activities
Preventing summer learning loss.
Issues: Reading comprehension; multiplication and division; social studies; grammar; character development, and more.

[amazon asin=1250035856&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Laura Overdeck, author of Bedtime Math.
Making math fun.
Issues: Clever, smart ways to get kids interested in math; teaching math through stories; why it’s never too early to start math; why we should do math with our kids just like we read to them.

[amazon asin=B005MZDBL8&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Lisa Gillis, coauthor of Virtual Schooling.
Optimizing your child’s education.
Issues: How to ignite your child’s passion for learning; easily and effectively improve your child’s current school work; powerful learning resources that can help kids excel; the proper use of computers and technology in education.

[amazon asin=B00BUA90Q4&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Bobbi Conner, author of Unplugged Play.
Battery-free, plug-free, electricity-free games and activities for kids of all ages.
Issues: The importance of unstructured play; coping with “I’m bored,” low-tech fun that can stretch the imagination, spark creativity, build strong bodies, and keep the kids busy while you’re making dinner…

Marking the End of a Sweet School Year

When I was little, on the morning of the first day of school, my parents would gather my sisters and me and we’d all have bread and a piece of gooey, dripping (but delicious) honeycomb. The idea, they said, was that learning should be sweet.

Years later, when I had kids of my own, I remembered that tradition. But I tweaked it a little. For years, on the morning of the first day of school, I’ve made my kids special pancakes in the shape of the letters A, B, and C. We slather them with maple syrup or any other sugary topping, and wolf them down. The idea remains the same: learning is sweet.

About five years ago, when my youngest was finishing up Kindergarten, I wanted to mark the end of the year in a way that would celebrate her accomplishments and gently remind her that even though school was over for the year, the sweetness of learning never ends. So a new tradition was born, and every year, on the morning of the last day of school, I make a different batch of pancakes. This one in the shape of the letters X, Y, and Z.

Parenting a Child with Down Syndrome + Inspiring Creativity + Kids and Divorce

[amazon asin=B00AEBEUCY&template=thumbleft&chan=default]George Estreich, author of The Shape of the Eye.
A memoir of a father raising a child with Down Syndrome
Issues: Hearing the diagnosis; health and psychological issues children with Down Syndrome face; worries about your child’s future; more.

[amazon asin=1591810760&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Bernie Schein, author of If Holden Caulfield Were in My Classroom.
Inspiring love, creativity, and intelligence in middle school kids.
Issues: What is No Child Left Behind and what does it mean to your family? Helping your child deal with peer pressure; helping middle schoolers tap into their emotions and realize that it’s their strengths, not their weaknesses that define them as individuals.

[amazon asin=B001F7BDE4&template=thumbleft&chan=default] Benjamin Garber, author of Keeping Kids out of the Middle.
Child-centered parenting in the midst of conflict, separation, and divorce.
Issues: Establishing conflict strategies that genuinely meet children’s emotional and psychological needs; building a safe, consistent healthy environment for your child; creating parenting plans that keep your child protected.

Violence and Gun Control: More Evidence That Too Many Schools Aren’t Clear on the Concept

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about gun control and a number of cases where children had been expelled or charged with crimes for bringing “weapons” to school. In one case, the instruments of violence were plastic toy soldiers; in another, a boy had chewed a pastry into the shape of a gun. I was hoping that we’d heard the last of these cases of good intentions gone completely crazy.

  • In a variation on gun control run amok, a 10-year-old California boy was suspended and threatened with expulsion after he brought a Swiss Army Knife on a week-long school school camping trip. Tony Bandermann told Fox News that his son Braden was on a science camping trip with his class at Garden Gate Elementary School in Cupertino. According to a school incident report, the boy showed the small knife to other students who then reported him to teachers. The incident report stated that law enforcement was also notified. However, no charges were filed. Bandermann, who was out-of-town on a business trip, said he received a telephone call from the school’s principal informing him that his son had violated the school’s weapons policy. The punishment, she told him, must be immediate and severe. “She threatened to expel him,” he said. “She kept telling me, ‘you can’t bring a weapon to school.’ A Swiss Army Knife is a tool not a weapon.” Since he was unable to pick up his son, the principal put the boy in 24-hour isolation at the camp – held in a teacher’s lounge where he was forced to eat and sleep in solitude. This story originally appeared here:
  • While not actually an issue of gun control, a Massachusetts middle school student was suspended after she brought a butter knife to school so she could cut a pear. Melissa LaPlaume told MyFoxBoston that her daughter was simply trying to cut her fruit for lunch because she has braces and can’t take bites out of the whole fruit. The vice-principal of Wamsutta Middle School said they were following the handbook rules—which ban knives—and suspended 13-year old Morgan. The story first appeared here
  • Back to gun control. A five-year-old Massachusetts boy could be suspended from elementary school after he built a gun out of Legos during an after-school program. The parents of Joseph Cardosa received a letter advising them that their son had used toys inappropriately. A second violation would result in a two-week suspension. The boy is a student at Hyannis West Elementary School. “While someone might think that making a Lego gun is just an action of a 5-year-old – to other 5-year-olds that might be a scary experience,” a school spokesperson told MyFoxBoston.com. “We need a safe environment for our students.”

More gun control, anyone?

Corporal Punishment in Schools? Spare the Rod. Period.

Dear Mr. Dad: My 9-year old son has been complaining a lot recently about how much he hates school. We had a long talk about it and he completely stunned me when he told me that the principal of his school has paddled his behind several times. I know my son can be challenging sometimes, but I thought corporal punishment in schools had been outlawed long ago. How is this even possible?

A: And just when I’d thought I’d put all those unpleasant grade-school memories to rest… Nationwide, more than 60 percent of American parents approve of spanking children—and half admit that they actually do it (that’s the average—the percentages are higher in the South, and lower in the rest of the country). However, more than 70 percent of parents (65 percent in the South)—and 80 percent of parents of grade-schoolers—say it shouldn’t be happening in schools at all. But it is.
[Read more…]

Good Grades—Nice to Have, But at What Cost?

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m really worried about my 9-year old daughter. She’s very smart and does well in school but lately she’s become obsessed with grades. A lot of her classmates have private tutors and she’s feeling more and more pressure from her teachers to study all the time. It’s gotten to the point where she doesn’t play with friends, rarely reads anything that’s not assigned, and almost never does artwork, which was something she used to be passionate about. Worst of all, she just doesn’t seem happy any more. Is there something we can do to get her back the way she was?

A: One of the most frustrating tasks of parenthood is to get our kids to do their homework, so being in a position where you feel that your child is studying too much, feels weird, doesn’t it? But you’re absolutely right to worry. Our obsession with grades and performance (in and out of school) has gotten too far out of hand. And the consequences are pretty severe.

First, it may actually be having the opposite effect than the one we hope for. A number of recent studies have found that the qualities that are most correlated with success in life are innovation, collaboration, and creativity. And the best way to nurture those qualities is to allow people unstructured time to think. Some of the classic examples of this include: Google, where employees can spend as much as 20 percent of their time on projects that could benefit the company’s customers. Google says that about half of its new products (including Adsense and Gmail) come from that 20-percent time. And Microsoft has its Garage program that gives employees a physical space—and permission—to work together to develop side projects. Branding expert Dan Schawbel says that 99 percent of Garage projects either ship as part of a Microsoft product or remain internal. Unfortunately, schools’ insane focus on grades leaves kids little or no time to let their minds run free. As a result, they’re becoming less and less creative.

Second, the focus on grades is literally making our kids sick—and worse. Young people today—and by “young people,” I mean kids from elementary school through college—are five to eight times more likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression than they were 50 years ago. Worse yet, the U.S. suicide rate for kids under 15 has quadrupled since 1950, and the rate for young people 15-25 has doubled, according to Peter Gray, author of “Free to Learn.” Gray also points out that anxiety and depression levels are very much associated with how much control people feel they have over their own lives. “Those who are in charge of their own fate are much less likely to become anxious or depressed than those who believe they are victims of circumstances beyond their control.” Schools that are laser focused on grades over all else are definitely not allowing kids the freedom they need to thrive.

Now, as for what to do to help your daughter, start by talking with her teachers and the school administrators. Explain the downside of the pressure they’re putting on kids and encourage them to lighten up. But don’t expect much change. Your best approach is going to be to help your daughter understand that there’s a lot more to life than grades, and that by giving herself the freedom to play, draw, or just hang out with friends, she’ll actually do better in school and in life.