Saturday, July 24, 2010

Literacy Library Book Drive: Stop, pop and drive! Very convenient!

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If your family is like mine, you understand how quickly the accumulation of children's books can overwhelm your bookshelves, long after your children have outgrown the colorful titles. It is true I have some sentimental favorites I'll probably never get rid of, but when it comes to cleaning out the archives, it is nice to know there are ways of passing kid's books on, ensuring the longtime enjoyment of budding readers. Next weekend, there is a real opportunity to do just that in Saline.

We've all read about strained school budgets. This morning, I received an email from the SAS Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Steve Laatsch with an announcement regarding a great way to give back to young Saline students.

Two local Girl Scout Troops are sponsoring a Literacy Library Book Drive next weekend, July 31st and August 1st, at Historic Union School (200 N. Ann Arbor St. in Saline) as their community service project. It is quick and easy, literally stop, pop and drive.

Here's how it will work: Drive into Union School's Parking lot (entrance off McKay St.) with a trunk full of books, stop and pop your trunk, the Girl Scouts will unload the books for you and close your trunk, and off you go. Simple and convenient.

The books they are looking for are gently used early reader picture and chapter books, with nothing tougher to grasp than Junie B. Jones or Hardy Boys Mysteries type books. No amount is too small, one book is one more than they have now.

All donations will benefit students in grades Kindergarten - 3rd Grade and will be greatly appreciated by Saline students.

It goes without saying this is a perfect teaching moment for our own kids on how to give back, how to help others in need. Big kudos to the Girl Scouts for creating such a thoughtful community project which will benefit so many.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lawsuit filed for 6 year old handcuffed in school, it is about time!

In May of this year, a six year old student at Sarah T. Reed elementary school in Louisiana was handcuffed and shackled because he had gotten into an argument with another student over a chair.  Parents didn't find out until a couple of days later when he complained of his wrists being sore from the handcuffs.  To their astonishment, this hadn't been the first time their child was handcuffed at school, nor would it be the last for any of the students, without public outcry.

The child's name is Ja'Briel Weston.  On behalf of all of the students at Sarah T. Reed, parents Robin and Sebastian Weston are filing suit against the Superintendant, the Director of School Security, the Board of Education, the school Principal and two safety officers.  The lawsuit pushes for a complete overhaul of school policy and procedures regarding disciplinary action.

I have written about corporal punishment in public schools before, in regards to using a paddle.  Louisiana is one of the states remaining where it is still legal to use corporal punishment.  Again, I think this kind of discipline is unhealthy for children on many levels, and keeps them from feeling safe at school.  I will note that schools in New Orleans have become models for excellence in academia as they rebuild after the devastation of hurricane Katrina.  Lets hope their policies and procedures can rise to the same level.  I'll be interested to hear the outcome of this case, and will let you know as information becomes available.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Is it cool to "friend" your teen on Facebook?

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A recent study by online fashion gamer Roiworld released a study this month showing a decline in Facebook usage by teenagers. Out of 600 teens, ages 13-17, one in five have stopped using the social networking giant. The main reason being boredom. That said, I know in my house I have a teen who is one of the other four out of five, who does use Facebook, and MySpace too. I also have a Facebook account with both personal "friends" and professional "fans" or "likers". The question becomes whether or not it is acceptable to merge both my online social
networking world with that of my teen?

To "friend or not to friend?" That is the question
I'm sure the answer hugely depends on the relationship a parent has with their teenager. Some parents want their kids to have a bit of privacy and freedom to be with their peers, others only allow social networking if they are allowed into their child's circle, with total access to their profile. Personally, I decided to do both. I am "friends" with my son on Facebook, where he has also friended many other relatives, but I keep my distance from his MySpace account. I am not naive, I know the language and topics of conversation certainly polar each other between the two sites, but I still see a pretty good sample of how he interacts with the people within his network.

It is possible to be a friend your child, and still not mortify them. Just because you see what they are up to doesn't mean you have to comment on their posts, for all their friends to see. If you need to send a message, try a private one instead of posting something on their wall. And note, teens are savvy users and can easily hide things from your view with a click of the privacy settings. Again, the relationship you have with your teen will dictate the outcome of communication as much online, as offline.

Some kids really don't care if their parents are in their network. One mom I know was surprised to receive a friend request from her sophomore son. She said to him, "You don't have to do that. I trust you." And he replied, "I don't care mom, I'm friends with everyone else in the family." Turned out she was the one who felt uncomfortable about it, invading his privacy.

One article in the Washington Post which was written back when Facebook first went public, quoted a teen who turned on her computer and found a request from her parent. She said, "I feel like they just walked into my room."

Being included within your child's social networking circle in no way replaces the need to monitor what else they are doing online. My kids still have to use the family computer in the dining room, they aren't allowed computers in their rooms. I still know what sites my kids visit, what games they play, etc.

No matter what you decide for your distinctly unique relationship with your child, my advice is this. Sit down and have a real discussion about how your teen feels about a new, online relationship between the two of you. Will it mortify them? Or will it be away to open up about things they find hard to deal with face to face (just make sure you learn how to post privately vs. publicly)? Chances are, you might not see much more within your child's online network, as you already see in their real one.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Teaching kids the attitude of gratitude

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I am still amazed at how often I notice adults not exercising the practice of appreciation and gratitude. It is the little things, like when someone lets you turn into traffic ahead of them and you wave "thanks" as you pull out in front of them, or when someone holds the door open at the gas station, or stops the elevator doors from closing so you can get on. In any of these situations I would be mortified if I didn't take a second to say "thank you". But I do see this behavior all the time, where people could care less about thanking anybody. It makes me wonder "weren't these people raised to say thanks" and "I wonder how their kids will learn to be thankful?" Showing gratitude and appreciation is an important value to put upon our children, and it is an easy lesson to teach.

First and foremost is teaching by example. When your kids see you act in a thankful manner, they will see it as a normal way to behave. Not only is it nice for children to see you being appreciative of others, but of themselves too. Next time your child gives you a spontaneous hug, be sure and let them know how much you appreciate it.

We've all seen children receive gifts they do not like, or which is a duplicate of what they already have. Be sure to give a reminder to younger tots about how their reaction may effect the gift giver. No child wants to deliberately hurt someone's feelings. Let them know if their is a problem with the gift, you will help them to work out a solution after the fact.

I also think the act of sending Thank You Cards is a lost art. Even the youngest of kids, with guidance, can finger paint their appreciation on a quick note, letting the gift giver know their thoughts and efforts were appreciated. I've told my children, "the gifts aren't really yours until the thank you card is in the mail."

Third, and perhaps the best lesson of all, is perspective. Some children have no concept of the fact there are other children who can only dream of what they have. Take the opportunity to have your child participate in a toy drive, food pantry or children's hospital cheer group. Not only will they see what other kids go through, but they'll be on the receiving end of the appreciation...and that is a gift all its own. Part of knowing how to be thankful comes from knowing what it is like to give.

Finally, there doesn't need to be a special occasion to recognize the many things to be thankful for. Thanks can be given any day of the year. Teach your kids to appreciate what it means to be healthy and to have people in their lives who love them. That is what they want most anyway, remind them how lucky they are to have it.

For more tips on getting the attitude of gratitude across to your kids, check out

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top twelve fruits and veggies with pesticides: Yikes!

There has been yet another conversation brought into the mix about the benefits of buying
organic fruits and vegetables. I'll admit, as much as I would like to say that I buy strictly organic foods, the truth is, they are often more costly than I can afford.

Studies show children with ADD and ADHD have much higher levels of pesticides than children who do not. And though my children do not have this condition, the information I've learned has got me wanting to find ways to pay the extra charge to keep my family as pesticide free as I can.

I was under the impression that as long as I washed fruits and vegetables well, the pesticides would be gone. Not so.

There are a couple of lists on the web and elsewhere that itemize the most contaminated fruits and vegetables when it comes to pesticides. The pesticide levels were taken after washing and peeling. The recommendation is to stay away from the top twelve, and you'll limit your pesticide intake by 80%. Well, the top twelve are all of the typical, kid friendly fruits and veggies that my kids love. My youngest will sometimes eat two apples a day, at the very least he eats one per day.

I'm sure there are many parents who already have this information. I am hoping, however, that if there are more out there like myself, who really believe they are doing the best for their children by washing and/or peeling their fruits and veggies, that this will be informative and useful information.