Friday, August 29, 2014


Radio Commentary

It’s never too early to begin reading to a child. Even infants love the sounds of words in lullabies and rhymes.

Set aside some time for reading aloud every day. Let children snuggle close to you. That way, they will think of reading as a happy time when they have your full attention.

Your reading time doesn’t need to be long—10 or 15 minutes each day is fine.

Remember: if you read just one story a night to children, they will arrive in kindergarten with more than a thousand story-sharing experiences.

As you read, you can also boost a child’s thinking skills — and have fun.

Ask children to think about why something is happening in the story—or what they might do if they were in the same situation. For example, “What would you do if you were Little Red Riding Hood?”

When you’ve finished a book, ask children to think about how to change the story.

For example, “What would have happened if all three little pigs had built their houses of bricks?”

You can have fun with these questions. Even better, your children will be developing thinking and reasoning skills that lead to success in school.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What do teens need?

Radio Commentary

The teen years can be tough to navigate, both for the teens themselves and for their parents.

It can seem as if all family interactions and relationships have changed. Sometimes new strategies are required to ensure smooth sailing through these stormy times.

Remember that teens need clear limits that define what is safe and acceptable.

They need discipline that is consistent and fair in all areas. They will be quick to zero in on actions that are seemingly unjust — even if the practices worked when they were younger.

Teens need positive role models who find pleasure in work, reading, hobbies, and family activities. No role model in that area is more powerful than a parent.

Teens also need permission to fail, with a tolerance for mistakes. No child can be perfect in every way. The telling family interactions are those that happen when mistakes are made or disappointments occur.

Never forget that teens need the chance to laugh and be happy, with their friends and their family. They need the chance to be successful, and it’s important to help them find an arena where that can occur.

Teens also need structured family activities, including meals and vacations. They benefit from friends who provide a positive peer influence.

Teens need encouragement to be responsible. Positive reinforcement helps.

They also need to be trusted and supported by important adults in their lives. Most of all, they need to be loved.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Budget reserve decisions should remain with local school districts

Newspaper column

For as long as I can remember, the common wisdom was that school districts should be run more like businesses.

The arguments against this are many and persuasive: To use the language of business, school districts have no control over their “raw materials,” over the length of time each “unit” remains in the production line, over the regulations that govern how they operate, and so on.

But one way that schools seem to surpass business practices year after year, was their agility in dealing with rapidly changing and daunting budget constraints. One tool districts utilized to adapt so quickly to changing circumstances was the careful creation of budget reserves that proved critical in dealing with cash flow issues and emergencies. 

Many districts worked long and hard to build up sufficient reserves beyond the minimum required by the state so that they could continue to react to changing needs. Most people agree that building and retaining reserves for emergency purposes and cash flow issues is essential, and should be rewarded and applauded. It is simply good business practice.

The reserve restriction included in budget trailer bill SB 858 turns that wisdom on its head. It is bad legislation that needs to be changed. In essence, it restricts school districts’ reserves and chips away at the whole premise of local control — having local school boards make the decisions critical to the well being of the district it is their responsibility to help manage. I agree with those experts who warn that it actually puts fiscal solvency at risk. Reducing reserves is certainly a poor way to run a business.

The language that creates this change was inserted into this year’s state budget, enabling legislation at the last minute, and was therefore never discussed in budget subcommittees where public analysis and discussion could take place. It was not a part of the Governor’s May Revision and did not appear in the final budgets adopted by the Senate and Assembly. 

It’s not clear why or how this language became part of the budget, but the rationale is tied to the Public School System Stabilization Account, sometimes referred to as the “rainy day fund.” If the state deposits money into that account for schools, the theory is that those funds will be sufficient to cover district needs in times of hardship. The way the language is written, however, means that even if a small deposit is made by the state into that fund, districts statewide would have to spend down billions of dollars in the reserves that they worked so hard to build.

The reality is that it will take years for our state to build enough funds in that stabilization account. But in one year, districts would be forced to spend down their reserves and ending balances to levels many believe could jeopardize their fiscal solvency.

The ironies should be clear to all: If voters approve a measure on the November ballot to establish a very worthwhile rainy day fund for the state, statutory changes would bind school boards statewide from exerting that same form of fiscal responsibility.

The language of this bill ignores the critical role that budget reserves play in the ability of districts to maintain fiscal solvency and it ignores how districts have used their reserves during the recent recession to avoid even greater cuts to education programs and staffing. 

What kinds of numbers are we talking about? The state’s minimum reserve requirements are based on the size of a district and usually are set at three percent of the overall budget. Well-managed districts have generally felt more secure carrying more than that in reserve because a three percent reserve represents between six and eight days of payroll for an average district. The new requirement transforms this minimum reserve into the maximum allowable for districts.

Some more numbers: Between 2008 and 2011 school districts had to manage $6 billion in ongoing revenue reductions, including $2.85 billion in unexpected mid-year cuts. Many districts would not have been able to stay solvent without the prudent fiscal management of healthy budget reserves. That was their safety net.

People ask what factors determine what level of reserve a district considers healthy. Those factors include the district’s size, its source of revenues, the trends of those revenues, projections for student attendance, pending litigation, state cash deferrals, and many more. School boards and district administrators always try to identify the key priorities for the district, the students, and the staff. One size does not fit all.

We all know that our state’s revenues are volatile and often uncertain. Those uncertainties directly impact school districts, because the major portion of their funding comes directly from the state. Strengthening the state’s rainy day fund is a worthy goal. It simply makes no sense that that same prudence would be undermined for school districts. 

I join those urging the governor and legislature to rethink this problematic mandate on such a crucial portion of school district budgets, and return budget reserve control to local school boards who know best the economic uncertainties facing their local districts. It is the right thing to do.

Listen to your kids

Radio Commentary

One of the simplest parent tips is one that is often overlooked because it seems so obvious:

Listen to your children.

As the saying goes, there is a reason we are given two ears and one mouth.

For parents it is tempting to reverse the ratio and do more talking than listening. After all, there is so much we want our children to learn and do. We are the source of that knowledge, and there is a powerful urge to share it often.

And, of course, talking to children is very good for them. It helps them acquire more of the subtleties of language.

But children also need to talk and to be heard.

When you listen carefully to what children are saying, you send the clear message, “You matter to me. I care about what you have to say. Your ideas and opinions are worthy of being heard.”

Those are powerful messages for children to absorb. 

The best advice is to slow down, face your child, even get down to his level, wait, and listen carefully to what he or she has to say.

Avoid the temptation to talk over your children. Don’t finish their thoughts, even if their speech is halting or they are searching for words. Let them find the words on their own, or help with gentle prompting. 

Don’t hurry your child to get on with it. Be patient. The time you spend listening will bear long-terms dividends for both of you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Connecting with your school

Radio Commentary

Whether you have a concern to share with school officials or you are just seeking information, there are ways to approach a school that make it more likely you’ll get what you want.

First, get as much information as you can before you go. You may want to write down your questions in advance.

Be sure to make an appointment, rather than appearing with no warning. That way you can be sure that the individual you need to talk to will be available when you arrive.

Approach the conversation with an attitude that assumes everyone is working in the best interest of your student. Acting respectfully will ensure that you receive treatment that is respectful.

Include your student in the discussions whenever possible. If agreements are made to follow certain approaches, be sure to uphold your part of the bargain.

It’s also important to get involved and stay involved. Join the PTA or parent group, the site council, or just volunteer in a classroom or the office.

Most schools involve parents in decision-making practices and evaluations of the school’s goals.

As your student’s main advocate, you need to know how to make the public school system work for your child.

Schools welcome this involvement because they know that children with involved parents are more likely to work hard, obey the necessary rules, and succeed academically. It’s well worth the effort.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Radio Commentary

Sometimes young people look for the easy way out. They may want to take a class that does not challenge them, or slide by with little effort.

It helps to make children understand the importance of challenging themselves to their fullest. Encourage them to take courses that are demanding — ones that get them to think and reach a little further.

Subjects or projects that require young people to push harder are well worth the extra effort. When they find an extra resource within themselves, they feel comfortable trying even more challenges in the future.
By taking accelerated courses, your children might end up finding their life’s passion. The hard work will often pay off in experiences that they otherwise might not have been able to share.

The payoff might be as simple as interacting with students they’ve never talked with before, getting hands-on experience in a new area, meeting experts in a certain field, or writing college-level research papers that will better prepare them for higher-level academic challenges.

While children should be allowed to focus on the present moment, help them understand that the future will hold more opportunities for those with broader experiences.

Reaching beyond one’s grasp and finding success is positive reinforcement. It is a good way to keep at bay the fear that too often is associated with trying something new or difficult.

It’s been said that “You get what you settle for.” Make sure your children set their own bars high and use their skills and creativity to meet those higher standards. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

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 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, be a timer for debates, or teach students how to play chess.
  • Chaperone field trips and dances.
  • Support your school’s fundraising efforts.
  • Contact sources of funding to help support special projects.
  • 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 very good way to stay in tune with what’s going on.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parents’ checklist

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 for 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 each night?

These are good questions to pose. They provide the basic building blocks for success in any classroom.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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 kindergarten 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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Road to readiness

Radio Commentary

Making sure that every child comes to school ready to learn is a worthy national education goal. But we are not yet nearly to that point.

One researcher examined the steps that must be taken to make it happen. The researcher determined that the quality of the parent-child relationship is key to language development.

Children need rich verbal experiences to draw from as they enter school. Parents should talk with their children all the time and read to them as often as possible.

Parents can share stories, and ask open-ended questions to spur thinking skills. This helps get children excited about learning new things.

According to the research, there are several preconditions for learning.

Good health comes first. Then come unhurried time with family, safe and supportive environments, and special help for families in desperate need.

This sounds like commonsense, but unfortunately these items are not always in great supply.

The researcher wrote: “These principles are deceptively simple. Assuring that every child has the opportunity to learn requires collaboration among community and health care agencies, families, and schools.”

It involves institutions and neighborhoods working together to help meet basic needs.

It is a promise unfulfilled in this country at this time, but it is a worthy goal to pursue for all our children.

This is the road to readiness. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

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 in a report on time, 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 in with you 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.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Top five ways

Radio Commentary

Here are the top five ways for parents to connect with their child’s teacher:

Early in the year, make arrangements to meet the teacher. This is an ideal time to share information about your child so that the 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 throughout the year. 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. A good tip: ask teachers beforehand for the best times to call.

Bring a list of questions to meetings with teachers. Prepared questions help the meeting stay focused and keep you on the issues that matter.

These are great ways to support your children in school. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

AmeriCorps members take the pledge with Congresswoman Lois Capps

News Release

United States Congresswoman Lois Capps will lead 30 new Santa Barbara County AmeriCorps members today at the Santa Barbara County Education Office in pledging their commitment to a year of serving local students. Throughout her time in public office, Congresswoman Capps has been a staunch supporter of AmeriCorps and its nationwide programs. Her presence at the annual pledge event is a special honor for all involved.
Says Capps, “AmeriCorps is an incredibly valuable program for both our community and for the people that serve as corps members. It is very exciting and humbling to join them as they celebrate the beginning of what I am sure will be a very important year for each of them.”

AmeriCorps is a national service program enlisting volunteers who address a variety of critical needs in their communities. For over 10 years, the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s AmeriCorps program has recruited and trained individuals who commit to serve an entire school year providing literacy tutoring and volunteer recruitment in our county’s schools.

Further information is available by contacting Bonnie Beedles, Santa Barbara County Education Office, at 964-4710, ext. 4415.


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 children 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 express and 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 13, 2014

Students need help getting year off to a good start

Newspaper column

Some children get excited about a new school year beginning, while others seem to dread the end of summer vacation. Either way, parents have an important role in preparing children for a smooth start of the school routine.

There is a requirement for a whooping cough vaccine booster, “Tdap,” for seventh- through 12th-graders. Older children benefit from a reminder about the rigors of homework and class work, and the need to get organized. For first-time students, it’s important to make sure all the proper immunizations have been given. For students of all ages, parents can play an important role to support school achievement throughout the year. This is a good checklist to repeat:

Breakfast: Children should begin each day with a good breakfast, followed by healthy snacks and other meals at regularly scheduled times. This helps small bodies maintain maximum capacity throughout the day.

Schedules: Children should know their parents’ or caregivers’ schedules at home and on the job. This helps establish a sense of time, but also reassures children about accessibility, consistency and order.

Reading: Parents should read to their children every day, if possible. Newspapers, short stories, books, and poetry can all be the basis of enjoyable shared experiences.

Homework:  If possible, a specific time each day should be scheduled for homework and study. Children should know that homework is a number one priority, yet they should also be granted flexibility if soccer practice or band tryouts fall during homework time. Working together to manage daily and weekly schedules becomes a good lesson in the budgeting of time and energy.

Adults should resist the temptation to do children's homework for them, yet it’s important that children know an adult is available for help. If children seem to be asking for help because they want someone else to do the thinking, a good response is: “I think you can figure this out on your own. You try first.”

Tests:  When children are studying for a test, they should be discouraged from “cramming” the night before. Instead, ask your children to bring their notes and books home every night so they can teach you what they have learned in school. These discussions could be held at the dinner table for everyone's benefit.

When children are preparing for a test, help them avoid panic. Advise them to study one section at a time, and use several sessions to review the material. Encourage a good night's sleep and a nutritious meal before the test.

If children are procrastinators and seem to do everything but homework, it might help to set up a reward system. Also, let children take homework breaks every half hour to refresh their minds.

A voice recorder is a great study aid for children whose parents are short on time. One technique is to record a definition or question, pause for about five seconds, and then record the answer. Children can then play it back, have a chance to test their knowledge, and get immediate feedback.

If children are having trouble with an assignment, be careful not to criticize. Find out what the problem is and work with children to address or solve it.

The most important point for adults to remember, at all times, is that their positive attitude toward homework, teachers, and school can have great influence on a child's success. That's the bottom line for all of us, and it reaps great rewards in the future.

Supportive parents

Radio Commentary

It is important for parents to 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 play board games or take part in other activities with their children. Go for walks and talk about what you see around you.

 These simple activities can help children develop a thirst for learning. They can also 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 explore it 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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Take 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 classes 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 encounters. 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 theater 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.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back to school

Radio Commentary

When a new school year gets underway, families experience new routines, schedules, and priorities. Before summer ends, taking a few simple steps can help your family gear up for a great year.

Keep a large calendar, marking each family member’s activities in a different-color.

Re-establish bedtimes for school nights. Get children in the habit of preparing for each school day the night before. They can set out clothes, pack a lunch, and set their backpack by the front door.

Scale back television time. Create a supervised study space for your child. Provide pens, pencils, a dictionary, and other supplies.

Establish a family reading time, and make a plan for after-school activities. Schedule adequate time for homework, play, clubs, practice, and sports.

Collect important telephone numbers. Update doctor and work numbers, plus those for the school office and a neighbor.

Start a change jar. This can ensure children will have spare lunch money on hand.

Set up a file for your child’s school papers. Place all school notices in it so you won’t misplace them.

Create a carpool. Compare schedules and determine which parents can drive kids which days. Have a back-up plan with another parent who will exchange pickup favors. This can be very helpful in case you get sick or delayed by work or traffic.

Taking these few steps can really help set the tone for a great year of school.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Noah’s Ark

Radio Commentary

Some of the most insightful thoughts we receive come anonymously.

The newsletter of the KIDS Network once printed an inspirational piece, author unknown, which was submitted by one of the group’s members. Though we don’t know the original author, we feel the sentiments bear repeating.

The piece is called “Everything I need to know I learned on Noah’s Ark.”

  • Don’t miss the boat. 
  • Remember that we are all in the same boat. 
  • Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
  • Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big. 
  • Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done. 
  • Build your future on high ground. 
  • For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
  • Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the rabbits.
  • When you’re stressed, float awhile.

And finally…
  • No matter how big the storm, there’s always a rainbow waiting.
Collaboration has always been key; it is more important now than ever before.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

After-school programs

Radio Commentary

Finding high-quality, affordable, supervised care for children 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, 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?

Ask if all 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 the number of adults. Be sure there are enough staff members to supervise all children during all activities.

Request the data. 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.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Community Leaders - Rolf Geyling

Guest: Rolf Geyling
President, Santa Barbara Rescue Mission

Talking with Teachers - Marcene Tate Newman

Guest: Marcene Tate Newman
San Marcos High School

Inexpensive toys

Radio Commentary

Parents on a budget should not worry about buying expensive toys, especially during the summer.
Children learn just as well — and maybe even better — when they play with household items and simple toys. The trick is to see things “through a child’s eyes.”

Don’t throw away empty paper towel tubes. Four-year-olds love to look and talk through them.

A stack of discarded envelopes can be just the thing for playing “office.” And an old purse may be ideal for toting a child’s treasures.

Children love to use paint, crayons, pencils, and chalk to scribble or practice drawing. Cookie dough and clay are great for making sculptures, letters, and shapes.
Other free or inexpensive things that children love to play and learn with include:
Aluminum pie tins 

  • Wooden spoons
  • Balls of all sizes (except those small enough to swallow) 
  • Sponges 
  • Measuring spoons and cups 
  • Blocks that stack or fit together
  • Plastic dishes
  • Old clothes for dress-up
  • And boxes galore.

 Children can play with simple toys in many ways. The best part is that there’s no one right way.

Exploring different ways to play with a toy helps children be creative and solve problems. These are useful skills for school success. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Planning for shopping

Radio Commentary

It can be trying, and even stressful, to shop in a grocery store or mall with a small child. Here are some steps that have helped other parents in the same situation:

First, before the shopping trip even begins, plan ahead by explaining the rules.

Say: “Stay close to me.” “Use your quiet voice,” and “No begging for candy or toys.”

Select a secret word or signal that you can both use to get the immediate attention of the other.

Role-play at home about how to act at the store. Agree on the rewards for good behavior. A favorite snack food or a stop at the park are good examples.

Promise to read a story or play a game at home.

It also helps to pack a treat. Bring a nutritious snack, such as raisins, cut-up apples, or nuts.

Bring a storybook. Keep a supply of little action figures or small toys handy. Try bringing a favorite blanket, toy, or book from home.

For a small child, tie a favorite soft toy to the handle of the shopping cart or stroller.

Check your child’s emotions. Is your child too tired or hungry to shop? Are you? If the answer is yes, postpone your trip or find a sitter for your child.

Don’t wait until the end of a tiring day. Go when you and your child are rested.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cirone on Schools - Scott Cory

Guest: Scott Cory
Santa Ynez Valley Union High School

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 impair 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 that parents can help children succeed in school. 

Friday, August 1, 2014


Radio Commentary

Self-esteem helps determine how good we feel about our performance and accomplishments, our trials and errors, our values and goals, and how we think others feel about us.

Self-esteem is difficult to define, but everyone agrees that it is important and worth cultivating in young people.

Because children develop physically and mentally in spurts, their self-esteem can be very fragile as they grapple with growing up.
They may doubt themselves when other children or adults tease them or hurt their feelings.

Self-esteem is related to academic success, but in complicated ways.
Even excellent students may lack self-esteem if they are not popular with other children. And a student with low self-esteem may strive for academic excellence as compensation.

Parents can help children develop into happy, independent, and competent adults by trying at all times to praise what is good. Here are some tips:

  • Give plenty of love and hugs. Children thrive on it.

  • If both parents work, arrange the best child care possible. Work toward a consistent, comfortable routine.

  • Be a confident role model. Children need parents to set the pace. Shore up your own self esteem — but avoid making your children feel that they could never rise to your lofty level.