Friday, June 30, 2017

Partnerships have made the difference

Radio Commentary

Partnerships are the central thread that runs through the fabric of all we have done here at the Santa Barbara County Education Office for the past three and a half decades.
Since this will be my last commentary before retiring, I would be remiss to leave office before publicly thanking and acknowledging our partners, large and small, who have made the difference in the lives of local families and children, and the schools that serve them. It is so impressive that our community embraces the concept “we are all better together.”
Members of our community — businesses, philanthropic organizations, institutions of higher learning, and private citizens — have all recognized the critical value of education as the cornerstone of democracy and the foundation of America’s future.
It has been said that individual snowflakes are fragile, but when they band together they can stop traffic. That’s what we’ve witnessed countywide — people and organizations banding together as a unified force to support students and schools. It has all made a difference. No individual organization could have done it alone.
I have often quoted Katherine Graham, whose famous statement captures so well what I believe all our partners feel when they help local children: “To love what you do, and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”
It has been a true privilege and an honor to work alongside you and serve the children, parents, schools, and citizens of Santa Barbara County for the past 34 years. Thank you for your caring, investment and support, and the impact you have had on children.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Children of addicts

Radio Commentary

Research shows that one in four young people lives in a family where a person abuses alcohol or suffers from alcoholism.
Children in these situations need to know they are not alone. Addiction to alcohol or drugs is a disease. When one member of the family has this disease, all family members are affected.
Children need to know it is not their fault. They didn’t cause the disease and they can’t make it stop. They need and deserve help for themselves.
It is critical to know that young people with addicted parents are four times more likely to become addicted if they choose to drink alcohol or use illegal drugs.
They need to keep firmly in mind that they can’t get addicted if they don’t drink or use drugs.
Children in these situations should talk with an adult — a teacher, school counselor, or school nurse, a friend’s parent, a doctor, grandparent, or neighbor — anyone who will listen and help them.
They can also ask a school counselor or social worker to recommend a support group. 
These are great places to meet other young people struggling with the same problems at home. 
Children should know it is important to find caring adults who can provide the guidance and support they need to stay healthy.
They will feel better and can have a safe and productive life. It’s in their power if they understand these facts and act.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Summer tips

Radio Commentary

During the summer and year-round, it’s good to bolster the three R’s for your children. To start, have your children keep a diary of their activities.
Also take time every day for the whole family to read. Even 10 or 15 minutes is fine. Have your children follow a favorite newspaper comic strip.
It’s also fun to have them write letters or send postcards to relatives and friends.
For math reinforcement, they can review cash register receipts, checking for accuracy when you’re unloading groceries.
You can also teach youngsters to compute gas mileage. If you hold a yard sale, allow them to make change.
You can also help children get organized. Have them start a collection of anything. It could be rocks, stamps, baseball cards, bottle caps, labels, marbles, leaves, or bugs.
Have the children arrange them in some orderly fashion by categories, by color, or alphabetically. They could even keep a written log to go along with the collection.
You can also ask youngsters to organize photos in an album by date or activity.
Or, they can save newspaper or magazine photos of favorite athletes or heroes to create a scrapbook. These ideas can add to summer fun while bolstering the 3 R’s.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Setting TV limits

Radio Commentary

When you consider Saturday morning cartoons, computer games, advertising, and movies, it can be worrisome to think about the media’s impact on children.
How can you set family standards for violence and other questionable content?
A resource called “Parenting in a TV Age,” published by the Center for Media and Values, answered some of these questions.
First, parents should take charge of children’s TV watching or computer-game use by setting limits on how much they will be allowed to watch or play. Typical limits include two hours a day, or 10 hours on a weekend.
Parents should also encourage daily alternatives, such as sports, games, hobbies, reading, chores, and playing with friends.
It’s also a good idea to get a locking device on your TV to bar access to certain cable channels and to consider similar filters for online sites.
Parents should decide ahead of time what “strings” to attach to viewing a popular show that may contain troublesome content. For example, children might be allowed to watch a certain program only if they agree to spend 15 minutes afterward discussing it with you.
Perhaps most important of all, parents sometimes forget their crucial role as a model for their children. Be willing to set limits on your own viewing.
Model the media behavior you would like your children to follow.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Boating, sun safety

Radio Commentary

Summertime usually involves water recreation, which can be a source of great family fun. It also poses some dangers.
So it is important to teach your children water safety rules, to help protect them when boating, swimming, or enjoying other water sports.
First, have children learn to swim, but never alone — use the buddy system.
They should know the items that can be used to help save someone in trouble — a rope, an oar, a branch, or a life preserver, for example.
They should never swim where there is no lifeguard on duty. When on a boat, they should always wear a life jacket and stay seated.
Another great danger associated with water sports has to do with the sun. Many people believe that a tan looks healthy, but prolonged exposure to the summer sun can be very dangerous.
In fact, excessive sun exposure during the first 20 years of life is a key risk factor for all skin cancer. And young children are especially vulnerable.
To help protect your children, keep infants up to six months old out of the sun or shaded from it. For young children, use sunscreen liberally, at least 30 minutes before exposure, and reapply often.
Use extra protection in areas with reflective surfaces such as water. And beware: A cloud cover only partially reduces radiation. The sun won’t feel warm until it is already too late.
With the right precautions in mind, summer can be a time of fun and enjoyment for all ages.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Swimming safety

Radio Commentary

Children have great fun swimming in pools or at the beach. But it is important that children stay safe any time they are around water.
All children should know how to swim well enough to survive an emergency. They should always swim with a buddy who has the ability to help them if needed.
Children should stay out of the water if they are overheated or overtired. They should never dive unless they know the area well enough, and they are certain the water is deep enough.
Make sure children check with a lifeguard about beach and surf conditions before swimming in the ocean.
Tell them if they ever think they are being pulled out by a rip current, they should stay calm. Instead of fighting the current, they should swim parallel to the beach. Once they feel free of the current, they should then swim to shore.   
Finally, children should not overestimate their swimming ability. Weak swimmers should stay in the shallow end of a pool, or within an area marked off for them with buoyed lines.
In the ocean, swimming short distances parallel to the shore is safest.
Swimming can provide great exercise and fun. But it is important that children understand the dangers and stay “water safe.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summertime activities K-3

Radio Commentary

Young students need activities that help them learn and stay sharp over the summer, and parents can choose from many simple ones for their children who are in kindergarten through the third grade.
Sorting and stacking helps teach classification skills. Ask your child to match and stack dishes of similar sizes and shapes. 
Also have children sort silverware — forks with forks, spoons with spoons. 
This is like recognizing the shapes of letters and numbers.
You can also use comic strips to help with writing. 
Cut apart the segments of a strip and ask your child to arrange them in order. 
Then ask your child to say the words of the characters out loud.
It also helps to encourage hypothesizing or guessing. 
Use objects such as soap, a dry sock, a bottle of shampoo, and a wet sponge. Ask which objects will float when dropped into water in a sink or bathtub. 
Then drop the objects into the water one by one to see what happens.
This all helps make learning fun, and it keeps young minds active over the summer months.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Community opportunities

Radio Commentary

Over the summer, look for opportunities in the community to engage your children.
Public libraries, YMCAs, and community centers are among the places that host free activities for young children and families, especially in the summer.
There are also some vibrant online groups for parents where moms and dads keep each other informed about local events, regular playgroups, and resources.
You can search for these groups on Facebook, MeetUp, or Google, but be careful to make sure you are accessing groups that focus on positive family supports.
A clearly worded description and active moderators are signs that the group is well-maintained and will have helpful information.
There are also a variety of Family Centers, which are great places for free playgroups and social activities. Parents and children can meet other families, learn about community resources, and take part in activities.
We are so fortunate locally to also have a wonderful zoo. The Goleta Railroad Museum has rides for little ones, and all museums have a variety of children’s programs.
The beach is another great place to take children of all ages, and local libraries have story-reading programs on a regular basis.
Santa Barbara County is filled with community treasures for children. Seize the opportunity!