Friday, August 31, 2012

Call the teacher

Radio Commentary

If you suspect that your child is having a problem in school, in any area, how do you know when you should call your child’s teacher?
It might be useful to know that most teachers say they want to know what’s going on in their students’ lives. 
Chances are if you’ve noticed a problem, your child’s teacher has noticed something is wrong, too.
By working together, you and the teacher may be able to come up with a good solution for your child
When should a parent call a teacher?  
Call if you see a dramatic change in your child’s behavior — if a happy child becomes withdrawn, or a friendly child wants to be alone.
Call if your child’s grades drop suddenly, for no apparent reason
You should also call if there’s been a change in your family. A new marriage, a divorce, or a new baby can affect school work and can indicate that other problems might follow if not addressed.
Good communication between teacher and parent can make a world of difference, and can provide the opportunity for a solution that is supported by all involved. 
In the long run, your child gains the most from this type of collaboration.
If in doubt, make the call.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

After-school sports

Radio Commentary

After-school sports can be the best part of a student’s day. But they can also cause problems or become a source of high levels of stress.
Clearly there are many benefits involved with sports. Here are some of the many positives:
• Sports help students keep fit and active.
• They can help develop self-esteem through achievements on the field.
• They help students learn the value of teamwork, one of the most valuable skills a young person can develop. 
Here are some of the possible challenges for students who play sports:
• Some students believe if they are good in sports, they don’t have to work hard in class. They become popular or well regarded for their athletic abilities and feel that is good enough.
• Some students find sports highly stressful if they cannot perform to their own expectations or those of their family or teammates.
• And some students want to win at any cost, no matter what. Let your child know that winning is not  the only thing that matters.
Effort, team work, good sportsmanship and improved skills should all be sources of pride as well. Those are the real lessons to be learned

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Study skills report

Radio Commentary

Researchers agree that parents who coach their children in essential study skills can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.
Parents can help by having a time and place designated for studies. They should stress the child’s sense of responsibility in completing all assignments thoroughly and accurately.
Some specific skills parents can support include the following:
• For time management — help students list goals and schedule deadlines. Discuss ways to maintain that schedule day in and day out, even when other activities seem to interfere.
• For reference materials and libraries — take children to the library and show them how to find and use the reference materials available.
Becoming comfortable with a library helps enormously as children’s academic assignments become more complex.
• For listening skills — children can practice listening to instructions and other verbal messages at home. Remind them there is a difference between hearing and truly listening.
• For verbal presentations — encourage children to discuss their activities, and practice oral reports at home.
The more comfortable they become with the techniques of verbal presentations at home, the more successful they will be in the classroom when those skills are needed.
Home is where study skills are learned and refined, with parents’ help. Helping children develop these skills will yield lasting, long-term benefits, while helping your children become life-long learners.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sleep for teens

Radio Commentary

For years parents and educators have known that teens do not get enough sleep to meet their health needs. Now we know there is a new culprit: their cell phones.
Parents may be unaware that many teens sleep with their cell phones by their side, answering calls or text messaging throughout the night.
As a result, teens come in to school very tired, and even start experiencing the kind of ailments that arise from too little sleep.
Research has documented that on average, teenagers have traditionally gotten about two hours less sleep every night than they need. The situation puts teen at risk of increased accidents and general moodiness.
In the past, these numbers arose from the fact that teens were generally staying up too late and waking too early for the needs of their bodies. Those figures were calculated BEFORE the prevalence of cell phones.
According to research, teen bodies need nine hours and fifteen minutes of sleep per night. Prior to the advent of cell phones as bedmates, teens were only getting an average of seven hours of sleep per night. Now the numbers are far lower.
And fitful sleep, in short bursts, is not as healthful as uninterrupted sleep, so the health implications are far graver than they have ever been.
Of the estimated 100,000 car crashes a year linked to drowsy driving, almost half involve drivers age 16-24, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. What’s more, like humans of any age, teens get more emotional when they are sleep-deprived.
The best thing a parent can do to help teens get the vital sleep they need is make sure there is no cell phone by their side when they go to bed. Period. Turn it off and take it away. It’s good parenting.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Five ways to connect

Radio Commentary

Here are the top five ways for parents to connect with their child’s teacher:
At the start of the school year, make arrangements to meet the teacher. This is an ideal time to share information about your child so that the student and teacher can make the best possible connection.
Take a “no fault” approach when dealing with difficult issues at school. Blaming teachers or classmates only strains relationships.
Join forces with teachers to reach a common goal: helping your child overcome difficulties and find success.
Drop your child’s teacher a note any time.
Do you have a question about homework? Is your child upset about something that happened at home? Were you really impressed by a school project? Pass it along.
Call your child’s teacher for a specific reason — or for no reason at all. Teachers appreciate hearing from you. It’s a good idea to ask teachers beforehand for good times to call.
Bring a list of questions to parent-teacher conferences.
Prepared questions help the conference stay focused and keep you on the issues that matter. 
These ideas can help get the school year off to a good start.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What parents should know about high school

Radio Commentary

What do parents need to know about high school?
Beyond the school calendar and what classes your student will take, you should also be familiar with graduations requirements and the classes available to prepare students for life after high school.
What are the academic and social standards?
What is the California High School Exit Exam?
Here are some tips for staying informed:
•  Obtain and read everything. Gather newsletters, handbooks, notices and course descriptions. Read it all.
•  Get to know the staff. Know everyone from the principal and school secretary to the teachers. Make an appointment for face-to-face meetings. Plan your questions before you arrive. 
•  Talk to other parents. Information about special programs, scholarships and good classes can all come from other parents. It is especially helpful to talk to parents who have older children.
•  Ask questions. That’s your right. And the staff at local high schools are willing to answer all your questions.
•  Finally, check homework. You can get a lot of information by spot-checking assignments. 
Looking at homework lets you know what your child is doing and it tells him you consider it important. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Parent's check-list

Radio Commentary

Parents often ask what they can do to help prepare their children for school.
The most important parent involvement comes from setting a tone of respect and appreciation for education in general and school rules in particular.
Here’s a checklist that has proven helpful for many families:
• Did my child get a good breakfast this morning? Children learn better when they arrive well-nourished.
• Did I provide a nutritious lunch or money to buy one?
• After school, did my child have a chance to tell me what happened today and to share concerns or excitement?
• Did my child use the agreed-upon time to complete all homework? This should be the number one priority each night.
• Did I make time to help my child with any problems that arose? Explaining things right away can often make the biggest difference.
• Does my child have any tests tomorrow? If so, has the needed studying been done?
• Have I read with my child? Has she read alone?
• Will my child get to bed at the regular time tonight?
These are good questions to pose. They provide the basic building blocks for success in any classroom.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Parent participation in middle school

Radio Commentary

The rate of parental involvement at school often declines when children enter the middle grades. But it doesn’t have to, according to Mary Simon, author of How to Parent Your Teenager.
Here are some ways parents can participate after their children leave the elementary school ranks:
•  Serve as a volunteer in the school office, library, hallways, or cafeteria.
•  Listen to students read.
•  Be a tutor.
•  Share your hobbies, culture, or special skills with students.
•  Help with clubs and activities. Organize and distribute sports uniforms, time debates, teach students how to play chess.
•  Chaperon field trips and dances.
•  Contact sources of funding for special projects.
•  Support your school’s fundraising efforts.
•  Serve on school committees.
•  Lead or support PTA efforts. 
Simon says her own involvement enriched her understanding of her son’s life in junior high.
What makes participation more difficult at these levels is the fact that students often feel more independent and sometimes act as though they don’t want their parents involved.
Don’t fall for it!  Deep down, young people are really pleased that their parents still care enough to participate. 
And it’s a good way to stay in tune with what’s going on.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Teach goal-setting

Radio Commentary

     One key ingredient to success in any field is being prepared. Setting goals and working to reach them is a discipline that assures a measure of success regardless of the task at hand.
     Taking young people step-by-step through a goal-setting process is very helpful.
     To start the process, ask young people to identify one learning goal they have for the week — like turning a report in on time. Or reading two chapters. Or memorizing a certain number of vocabulary words.
     Have them write the goal down and keep it where they can see it every day.
     Show them how to break the goal into smaller steps. Using a written report as an example, they could read two chapters every day, and spend one day writing the report.
     Help them identify obstacles to achieving their goal — like sports practices, music rehearsal, other homework, or even fatigue. Help them devise ways to overcome those obstacles.
     Show them how to use self-motivation. Ask them to think about how they will benefit directly when they reach their goal.
     Make sure they check as the week progresses. Identify problems that arise and talk about solutions.
     At the end of the week, have them evaluate how they did, and use that information to set a new goal for the next week.
     After a few weeks of using this technique, most students can continue the cycle on their own, setting goals and working to reach them. It is a very valuable discipline to master.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Supportive parents

Radio Commentary

It is important that parents understand the enormous influence they can have in helping their children do well in school. Their contribution cannot possibly be overstated. It is evident in every area of a child’s academic life.
Parents can be especially helpful in two major areas: attitude and life experience. Both have a major bearing on school performance.
As a start, parents can help in learning activities by playing board games or other activities with their children. Go for walks and talk about what you see around you.
 Doing these simple activities can help children develop a thirst for learning. They can enhance curiosity and powers of observation and creativity.
Parents should also talk with their children as often as possible, even as they go about their daily chores. These everyday conversations help build vocabulary and language skills in a very natural fashion.
Children hear the rhythms and incorporate new words without even realizing that important learning is taking place.
It’s always very helpful to have books and magazines available for children to read in their home. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to let your children read to you. If they see a word they don’t know, you can look it up together.
This habit will serve them well as their reading skills improve and they tackle more challenging literature and assignments.
Supportive and caring parents go a very long way in helping bring about success in school.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Taking advantage

Radio Commentary

School is a full-time job for your children, with many opportunities. Be sure they take advantage of the varied offerings.
 Encourage them to get involved with extracurricular activities, sports, or community volunteering.
After school programs, enrichment or accelerated courses, provide year-round opportunities for growth and challenge.  
Becoming as involved as possible will serve children well after graduation and will also make their school experiences more enjoyable.
Students will have the chance to get to know teachers, coaches, and school staff members outside of structured class situations. Those connections can help make school more enjoyable and less stressful.
Allow children to have fun and give their best effort, without necessarily striving for perfection.
The teamwork learned in sports, at student council functions, in theatre groups or clubs, can help in employment and community activities in the future.
If your children show a special interest or a certain skill, see what’s available to satisfy their curiosity.
A full-time job comes with ample responsibilities, rewards, and opportunities. That is the case with children’s schooling as well.
Encourage your children to take advantage of all that’s offered.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Health and Learning

Radio Commentary

Children’s health can have a noticeable impact on their ability to learn.
Vision and hearing problems, in particular, can affect a child’s ability to keep up in school.
That’s because an inability to see the blackboard or hear the teacher can keep a student from understanding what is being taught.
Distractions can also be caused by dental problems or learning disabilities.
In Santa Barbara County, children are screened for hearing, vision, and dental problems in kindergarten or first grade, and again in second, fifth, eighth, and tenth grade.
In order to identify potential health problems — including possible lead poisoning, the state requires preventative physicals for all first-graders.
If a teacher or school nurse notices a child is having a problem, a referral is made to the home.
In addition, tips from teachers can help school psychologists identify behavioral or learning problems, such as attention deficit disorder.
Nutrition and rest can also have an impact on children’s learning.
Research has shown that children who eat breakfast do better in school than those who do not. 
Looking out for a child’s health, and paying attention to nutrition and rest, are important ways parents can help children succeed in school. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

after-school programs

Radio Commentary

Finding high-quality, affordable, supervised child care before and after school can be challenging for working parents.
It’s a good idea to explore all kinds of options, including family-based care, child care centers, school-based programs, scouting programs, or those offered through the YMCA, the YWCA, or religious organizations.
Here are some tips: Visit several programs. Ask for references.
Does it look safe? Do staff members seem to enjoy interacting with the children? Are there other children your child’s age? Do the activities fit your child’s interests?
Do all of the caregivers have first aid, CPR, and child development training?
Are the discipline policies compatible with your own philosophy? Can children choose activities? Is there an effort to encourage independence and build self-esteem?
Count adults. Be sure there are enough staff members to supervise children during all activities.
Check some figures. How long has the program been open? What percentage of children return each fall? Is the program certified or accredited?
Get informed. Find out about efforts in your community to expand options for child care before and after school.
Then stay informed. Once a child is enrolled in a child care program, be sure to visit and check things out regularly.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Social Skills

Radio Commentary

The skills required in a classroom are many and varied. 
Children need to know how to take turns, make compromises, approach unfamiliar children, obey those in authority, and be generally nice to others. 
Then they are socially ready to learn. But no one is born with these skills. They come from repeated interactions with other children at an early age. 
Keep in mind that not all the interactions must be positive and pleasant. Children need to understand that others can be unfair and unkind, but that they should not act that way in return.
If young children are never exposed to adversity they will be much less likely to be able to deal with it when it invariably arises in situations both inside and outside the classroom.
We like to protect our children from unpleasantness, but at some point they must be able to deal with life’s adversities as well.
So let your children interact with others, and don’t be too quick to intervene in the normal squabbles that can arise. 
As long as all seems within normal bounds, let them work it out, and learn valuable lessons in the process.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hope and help

Radio Commentary

Addiction plays no favorites. It assaults individuals of every walk of life. Every color. Every socioeconomic group. Almost every age.  
            It seduces people with short-term euphoria and trades that off for lifelong agonies. It is an illness whose victims are individual people and all those who love them, work with them, teach them, or care in any way.
            And it doesn’t just happen to “other people.”  It happens to our friends, our neighbors, our children, and our loved ones.
            If you, a relative, or a friend has a problem, remember that you are not alone. Help is available. Never give up on anyone.
Here are some phone numbers that could help:  Call—
•  the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, 962-6195;  
            •  Fighting Back’s parent program, 963‑1433, ext. 104;  
            • Alcoholics Anonymous, 962-3332;  
            •  the Daniel Bryant Youth and Family Treatment Center adolescent program, 730-7575.  
            Many people say their agony was prolonged because they didn’t know where to turn for help.   
            It’s essential to know that thousands of county residents and relatives have received the treatment they needed through the organizations cited. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Radio Commentary

Transitions can be difficult for children, whether they involve end-of-summer issues, the beginning of a new school year, or changes in the family situation.
            Here are some tips to help a child move more easily through transitions:
            First, let your child know that a change is coming. If there is a family calendar, mark the event. Help the child enjoy the steps leading to it.
If pleasant memories can be associated with the change—such as shopping, going out for ice cream, or going to one last fair or festival, it makes the transition easier for a child.
            Respect the fact that your child may need time to work through feelings.
            Listen to what is important to your child. Maybe it’s special time to play with a friend or visit a relative.
Whether the transition involves a new schedule, a new sibling, or an older sibling going off to college, change can create anxiety and insecurity.
Listen for the source and try to face it positively without denying your child’s fears. Reassuring your child won’t take away all the feelings of uncertainty, but it can plant a seed of hope.
Transitions are a part of life. The better we can understand the responses to change, the better able we are to help our children deal with them.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summer Tips

Radio Commentary

During the summer, it’s good to bolster the three Rs for your children. To start, have your children keep a diary of their activities.
            Take time every day for the whole family to read. Even 10 or 15 minutes is fine. Take advantage of the library’s summer reading program, or have your children follow a favorite newspaper comic strip all summer.
            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 or tag sale, allow them to make change.
            You can also help children get organized. Have them start a collection. 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, August 7, 2012

Preventing power struggles

Radio Commentary

            Parents may be relieved to know that there are positive alternatives to struggling with teens. It is never hopeless!
            First, be sure to use friendly actions whenever possible. Young people are very tuned in to negativity and they react to it very badly. Sarcasm is never a good idea.
            Second, use one-word messages whenever possible. It may be hard to focus your thoughts into a single word but it is well worth the discipline to try.
Once you are focused, it is easier to get your child to focus appropriately as well.
            Next, set clear limits and stick to them. It’s hard, but effective to do this.
            Teach students that when they say “no” they can do it in a respectful way. Remind them it’s not the “no” that can be a problem, but rather how it is delivered and what it seems to signify. Give them alternatives, and try to negotiate win/win outcomes.
            Focus on priorities. Nothing gets communication off track more quickly than bogging down in trivial matters.
            Give students appropriate ways to feel powerful. No one likes to feel powerless. It can be frustrating and it can lead to more challenges.
            Finally, if a major blowup occurs, a cooling off period can often place many things into perspective for young and old alike. All these actions can help.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ready for school

Radio Commentary

School will be starting soon for many young people, but there is still one group remaining that gets little attention: the four-year-olds who will join the ranks of kindergartners next year. 
Most educators agree that children should master certain important physical, mental, and social skills before they start kindergarten. 
Check these skills. Ask yourself,  can your child:
            •  Stand on one foot for at least 10 seconds without losing balance?
            •  Hop and turn somersaults?
            •  Swing and climb on a swing set or jungle gym?
            •  Copy a triangle with a pencil or crayon?
            •  Draw a person with a body?
            •  Print a few letters?
            •  Get dressed without much help?
            •  Use the rest facilities alone?
            •  Eat with a fork and spoon?
            •  Remember part of a story?
            •  Use five words in a sentence?
            •  Understand past, present, future tenses, and the differences among them?
            •  Say his or her name and address when asked?
            •  Count 10 or more objects?
            •  Name at least four colors?
These are important skills to work on in the year before kindergarten, to help make sure your child is ready for school.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Helping a cause

Radio Commentary

            Parents can model for their children how to be a good citizen, especially during the summer months.
            One good place to start is to find at least one cause or need in your community where you can volunteer your help.
            Let your children know why you think that area is important and spell out for them how you are trying to help. Let your child join you if he or she wants.
            Most children will be eager to become involved — but don’t force it if they’re not.
            It’s important to let each child choose where and how to help, so that they can take ownership in the progress that is made.
            Opportunities range from helping other young people or senior citizens, to helping animals or an environmental project.
            It’s also good to find and share success stories with your children.
            It’s easy for any one of us to become overwhelmed by problems in the community or the world. But the truth is that individuals can and do make a difference.
            Talk to your children about the importance of joining forces. Encourage them to involve their friends or classmates in tackling big projects such as a creek or playground cleanup.
            All these activities help reinforce the actions of good citizens. They help plant the seeds that individuals make a difference, and that in a democratic society we all have a responsibility to do things “for the good of the order.”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pool safety

Radio Commentary

            Swimming pools are a great place for children to have fun and get exercise. But they can also pose some dangers.
            The American National Red Cross issued important safety tips for supervising children anytime they are at a pool or pond:
            Never let a child swim alone at a pool or pond. Constant supervision is a must.
            Never leave a child unattended in the pool area — even for the length of time it takes to answer a telephone.
            Pool owners should make sure there is fencing around the pool, and a locked gate.
            Deep and shallow sections of the pool should be clearly marked and separated with a line if weak swimmers or non-swimmers use the pool.
            Anyone supervising children near water should know simple reaching techniques for rescues.
            These can include extending a towel, shirt, branch, or pole to the swimmer, or throwing a life preserver or other buoyant object.  
            It is also important to know how to administer CPR.
            With water safety always in mind, everyone can have fun at the pool this summer. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summertime activities

Radio Commentary

           There are many activities parents can ask students in kindergarten through third grade to take part in over the summer. These activities can help young students learn and stay sharp.
            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 fill in the words of the characters out loud.
            It’s also good to encourage hypothesizing or guessing. 
            Use objects such as soap, a dry sock, a bottle of shampoo, a wet sponge. Ask which objects will float when dropped into water in a sink or bathtub. 
Then drop the objects in the water one by one to see what happens.
This all helps make learning fun, and keeps young minds active over the summer months.