Friday, January 30, 2015

Effective families

Radio Commentaries

In a report titled “The Evidence Continues to Grow,” the National Committee for Citizens in Education made a strong case for parental involvement in education.

The report found that effective families have several identifiable characteristics. These included:

  • A feeling of control over their lives — individually, and as a group
  • Frequent communication of high expectations to the children
  • A family dream of success for the future for all members
  • A consistent message that hard work is the key to success
  • An active lifestyle involving physical activities
  • A view of the family as a mutual support system and an effective problem-solving unit
  • Clearly understood household rules, that are consistently enforced, and
  • Frequent contact with teachers by at least one parent, and both if possible.

The report maintained that this type of family lifestyle helps lead to a child’s increased self-confidence and self-control.

These characteristics create a protective network that is an ongoing source of strength and support for young and old alike.

In families with these traits, parents tell their children through their attitudes, behavior, and encouragement that they can succeed in school and in life.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Loving discipline

Radio Commentaries

Punishment is a negative consequence of bad behavior that has already occurred. Discipline is a positive way to focus on future behavior.

Here are rules for loving discipline that many parents have found helpful:

  • Change misbehavior by setting positive goals to strive for, rather than negative ones to avoid. 
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. Children have an uncanny way of knowing the difference.
  • Involve your children in solving problems to show you value their judgment.
  • Talk less; do more. 
  • Ask what happened to cause a certain misbehavior. The cause may be very different from what you suspected.
  • Make clear what you want from your children and praise them when they do it. 
  • Impose logical consequences for any misbehavior. Be sure the cause-and-effect link is clear.
  • Give your children choices — but make sure you can live with them. If not, discuss the issue and explain why another choice might be better.
  • Focus on what’s good about your children, and expect their very best. 
  • And always show your love.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cal Grants help low and middle-income families

News column

More than 40 years ago the state of California set a goal of providing access to higher education for low and middle income students. That goal became a reality with the passage of funding for Cal Grants. These are cash awards for college aid, and the application window is now open. 2015-16 Cal Grant applications are accepted through Monday, March 2, 2015.

For a great many students in our state there has sadly been very little incentive to do well in school. Many of these students come from low and middle-income families with no realistic capabilities of affording higher education. These students know from a young age that they will have to work to support themselves or contribute to the family as soon as they are able.

Though some of these students still summon the inner motivation to study hard and do well in school, many others are handicapped by this motivation barrier. It’s easy to see why the typical stresses and distractions of adolescents can loom larger for those who see no promise of any academic advancement in the future. The good news is Cal Grants are still making college dreams a reality.

Cal Grant A Entitlement awards can be used for tuition and fees at public and private colleges, as well as some private career colleges. At CSU and UC schools, this Cal Grant covers system wide fees up to $5,472 and $12,192 respectively.

Students attending any private nonprofit college or a for-profit college accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges receive up to $9,084 toward tuition and fees. For students attending most other career colleges, it pays up to $4,000. For 2015-16 new applicants, these funds are provided to high school graduates with a 3.0 (B) or higher grade point average whose maximum income ranges from $32,000 for recipients who are independent to $100,800 for students from a family of six or more.

Cal Grant B Entitlement awards provide low-income students with a living allowance and assistance with tuition and fees. Most first-year students receive an allowance of up to $1,473 for books and living expenses. After the freshman year, Cal Grant B also helps pay tuition and fees in the same amount as a Cal Grant A. For a Cal Grant B, your coursework must be for at least one academic year.

Cal Grant C awards help pay for tuition and training costs at occupational or career technical schools. This $547 award is for books, tools and equipment. An additional $2,462 may also be awarded for tuition at a school other than a California Community College. To qualify, students must enroll in a vocational program that is at least four months long at a California Community College, private college, or a career technical school. Funding is available for up to two years, depending on the length of the program.

Cal Grant B Competitive Awards are for students with a minimum 2.0 GPA who are from disadvantaged and low-income families. These awards can be used for tuition, fees, and access costs at qualifying schools whose programs are at least one year in length. A Cal Grant B Competitive Award can only be used for access costs in the first year, including living expenses, transportation, supplies, and books. Beginning with the second year, the Cal Grant B Competitive Award can be used to help pay tuition and fees at public or private four-year colleges or other qualifying schools.

It’s clear that the availability of these grants has had the potential to change lives. It provides students with the motivation to focus even harder on their studies. If students do their part and earn good grades, money may no longer be a barrier to higher education.

This has been a landmark accomplishment and it has spurred many students to work hard in school and fulfill their family’s dreams and their own potential.

With all these programs in place, the state has made a strong commitment to higher education and accessibility for students. We will all reap the benefits of an educated workforce and an educated consumer base that can attain the job skills to earn the money to afford the goods and services produced by our economy. Truly these grants are a win-win situation for all.

Information about the grants can also be found online at: and

Health and learning

Radio Commentaries

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 medical or dental problems, as well as 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 a positive impact on children’s learning.

Research has shown that children who eat breakfast do better in school than those who do not.

Monitoring a child’s health, and paying attention to nutrition and rest, are important ways that parents can help children succeed in school. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Paying for college

Radio Commentaries

Many parents would like their children to attend college, but are concerned about the costs.

While paying for college can be a challenge, it is important to know that there are many opportunities for financial assistance.

The factors that influence the cost of a basic college education are the type of school (such as public or private, in-state or out-of-state), the time it takes your child to finish (the longer he or she stays, the more it will cost), and location.
Location affects the cost of housing, food and transportation.
Federal and state governments both offer help, along with private sources and foundations such as the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

Your child’s high school is the best single source of information about financial aid.

Here are tips that help reduce college costs:

  • Reduce the number of classes needed in college by taking Advanced Placement classes or courses at a community college.
  • Enroll in a community college and then transfer to a four-year school.
  • Participate in a partnership program that is formally linked to a college.
  • Take advantage of federal programs such as the HOPE Scholarship tax credit.

Remember the guiding principle: Where there is a will, there really is a way.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Language skills

Radio Commentaries

Children with strong language skills tend to do better in school than those who are weak in that area. Language skills come in handy in a variety of ways, and they help with almost every other subject a student studies in school.

For this reason, it’s important to do all we can to help children strengthen these skills. Here are some ways you can help your child develop them:

  • Buy or make hand puppets. Then help your child put on a puppet show of a favorite story or make one up from scratch. The act of conveying a message helps strengthen language skills.
  • Talk as often as you can about familiar items in your home to help children learn that things have names. For example, mention the bed, chair, door, sink, and cabinet as you do work around the house.

If your child seems interested, try making labels to show that the names can be written down as words.

  • It also helps to limit TV viewing. Children who are watching television are not playing outside, thinking, being creative, or using language skills of their own.

When your children do watch TV, try to watch along with them. Talk about what you’ve just seen. Relate it to your child’s life and family setting. Use rich vocabulary at a level your child can understand.

All these activities can help strengthen language skills.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Reading for meaning

Radio Commentary

Getting meaning out of what we read is one of the secrets for success at any age, but most particularly for young people in school.

Experts always cite reading as the skill students most need for classroom success.

Studies show that having a lot of reading materials around while children are growing up helps them in more ways than we may ever know.
Being surrounded by words helps make children comfortable with language.
Submerging children in a culture of words helps them learn that words have meaning.
Words are the building blocks for thinking and learning all through a lifetime.
But just learning to read is not enough to ensure school success.
It’s important to be able to sound out different letter combinations, but children must also learn to find the meaning in different combinations of words.
Reading out loud helps focus on pronunciation and word recognition. The next step is understanding what those words signify, and learning how to put them together in combinations to get meaning across.

Only then can students put what they read to its best use. Reading for meaning is always the goal. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Giving speeches

Radio Commentaries

Many young people dread giving speeches. Yet students will need to make presentations and will be called upon to speak up in class and answer questions.

One tool that parents can use to help ease their children’s fear and self-consciousness is to get them interested in reading great speeches.

Words can be inspirational. If young people can envision important figures giving a speech, they may be inspired to do the same. Being an effective communicator comes from practice and having good information.

You can provide feedback to your children to help them improve their skills.

First, make sure that children know that almost everyone is uncomfortable at one time or another when having to get up in front of people.  Knowing this can help reduce their stress.

Many famous speeches have sparked an interest in poetry and public speaking: Among them are The Gettysburg Address, JFK’s inaugural address, The Declaration of Independence, and speeches by Winston Churchill and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whatever your political views or personal tastes, share your favorite speeches and sayings. Have your children read them aloud, so they can become more comfortable speaking in front of others.

The next time they have to give a five-minute speech on someone they admire for their English class, it will be much easier and more fun because they’ve been practicing. And they’ll have many more ideas.

The self-confidence that can come from speaking up and sharing information with others is invaluable.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

First two Rs for testing

Radio Commentary

High-stakes testing is a fact of life. Students of all ages will take standardized tests throughout their school careers.
While some students are naturals at test-taking, others need help to do their best.

A publication titled “Principal Communicator” outlined four conditions that parents can use to help their children feel confident about tests.

They all start with “R”: Being Receptive, Relaxed, Ready, and Rested.

Being “Receptive” is important. Parents can help young people develop a receptive attitude toward school in general, and testing in particular.

They can do this by making sure students understand that testing is merely a part of the learning process, and that it is a measuring stick for how much they have learned.
The second “R” is for “Relaxed.” Anxiety can block the best-prepared student from doing well on a test.
Two effective ways to overcome anxiety are the third and fourth “R’s” — getting Ready by studying well in advance, and being Rested rather than staying up late to cram the night before a test.

It’s important to help children avoid getting hung up on how hard a test might be, or the consequences of doing poorly. Remind children about the satisfaction that comes from trying their best.

Make sure they know you think they will do well, but that your approval of your child as a person does not depend on a test score. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Esteem and violence

Radio Commentary

There is a link between violence and low self-esteem.

While it is important to teach children that they are responsible for any misdeeds, it is equally important to build their self-confidence by praising them for good behavior and accomplishments.

 A child who is loved and treated kindly at home learns to love others and treat them kindly as well.

It is also important to support school policies in this area.

Know the school’s rules about discipline, and reinforce them at home. Take an interest in your child’s homework and school activities.

Be sure to clarify behavior standards. Be very clear about your expectations for behavior at home, at school, and in the community.

Identify the consequences for breaking rules. Explain why you disapprove of behavior such as destroying property, bullying, or harming others.

Put your child on notice that TV shows, movies, music, and magazines with violent or pornographic themes are not permitted in your home.

All these suggestions are intended to reinforce for children the idea that violence is not a solution to problems they may encounter.

These are the first steps to helping create a safe, secure, and nurturing environment for all.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Birmingham Pledge

Radio Commentary

Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream that one day human beings would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

That dream is not yet a reality. But we can all help it come closer by giving our children the tools that will help them grow up as tolerant adults who embrace and celebrate America's great diversity.

 One of those tools is the Birmingham Pledge, an effort of the Birmingham community to recognize the dignity and worth of every individual.

The pledge is a personal, daily commitment to remove prejudice from our lives, and to treat all people with respect.

The pledge states:

I believe that every person has worth as an individual and is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color.

I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others.

Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions.

I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity. I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.

It’s a pledge we can all make. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Economics, happiness

Radio Commentary

An early goal for public education in this country was to help people become economically self-sufficient.

Our leaders felt that public schools would give all Americans the basic reading and math skills they needed to succeed in the workplace. As a result, poverty and its consequences would be reduced.

Early national leaders also saw the public schools as a “social escalator in a merit-based society.”

They thought it would enable children of humble birth to pursue financial success and improve their lot in life.

Later, as the Industrial Age introduced new occupations, the public schools offered more courses with direct vocational content.

Early proponents of public schools also saw an educational role in enhancing individual happiness.

They felt that knowledge produced people who could think rationally, apply the wisdom of the ages, and appreciate culture.

In 1749, Benjamin Franklin said: “The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men in all ages as the surest foundation of the happiness of both private families and of communities.”

It is very important as we continue to reform and improve public education that we keep our eye on the big picture — the lofty goals our founding fathers had in mind.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Children and crises

Radio Commentary

Whether it's a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake far away, or a fire or shooting closer to home, parents and other caregivers must meet the challenge of reassuring children during times of crisis.

The way caregivers respond has a huge impact on how children will react.
To help, a booklet from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, called When Terrible Things Happen: A Parent’s Guide to Talking with Their Children, offers some good advice.

For example, infants and toddlers, age zero to three, can’t understand how a crisis or a loss has changed their environment.
But they can recognize and respond to changes in adult behavior.
The best way to help infants and toddlers is to keep a routine and resume normal activities as soon as possible.

Pre-school children, age three to five, may not talk about their feelings openly. Talking while playing games or drawing pictures can help children of this age group express their thoughts more easily.
School-aged children, age five to 12, have more understanding of how and why things happen and will want to ask questions. Parents can help by talking, listening and answering their questions directly and honestly.

We cannot control a crisis or a catastrophe. We can only control how we react to them, especially with our children. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Horace Mann: Nation’s greatest public school advocate

News column

Horace Mann is one of our nation’s greatest early heroes, and I believe more people should know about him. He was a tireless advocate for public schools and is considered the father of American public education. He once said, “Education is our only political safety. Outside of this ark, all is deluge.”

He was born in Massachusetts when our country was young, in 1796. Almost all he learned he picked up on his own at a town library that had been founded by Benjamin Franklin.

He studied hard enough to attend Brown University, and graduated as valedictorian.

He served in the Massachusetts state house of representatives for six years and the state’s senate for four more. When Massachusetts created the first state board of education, he served as its secretary. He took to his post with enthusiasm and visited every school in the state. He became a strong advocate for the benefits of a common school education.

Reflecting the outlook of his time, he argued persuasively that universal public education was the best route to turning unruly children into disciplined, judicious citizens. This helped him win approval from the politicians of his time, especially in his Whig Party, for creating and building public schools.

In time, he founded the Common School Movement, insuring that all children would receive a free education funded by the taxpayers of the community they lived in. He believed strongly that by bringing children of all classes to learn side by side, they could have a common learning experience and give a chance to the less fortunate to advance on the social scale.

He believed education would “equalize the conditions of men.” He also believed it would help students who did not have adequate discipline at home. To him, building character was as important as teaching the three Rs. He hoped schools would instill values of obeying authority, being prompt, and organizing time  — all important traits for future employment.

In his publications he laid out six main principles for the common school:

  • The public should no longer remain ignorant.
  • Education should be paid for, controlled, and sustained by an interested public.
  • Education is best provided in schools that embrace children from a variety of backgrounds.
  • Education must be non-sectarian.
  • Education must be taught by the spirit, methods, and discipline of a free society.
  • Education should be provided by well-trained, professional teachers. 

It’s clear that our entire notion of public schooling traces back to Horace Mann.

When John Quincy Adams died, Mann was elected to his U.S. Congress seat. Many people who know of Horace Mann are not aware that his brother-in-law was author Nathaniel Hawthorne. The world, and this nation, was a much smaller place in many ways at that time.

After leaving politics Mann was named president of Antioch College in Ohio, where he stayed till his death in 1859. His commencement message to that final class of students was “to be ashamed to die until you have won some victory of humanity.” That phrase is still repeated to every graduating class at the college.

Wise words from a wise man. We all owe him a large debt of gratitude for a system of public education that endures to this day in testament to his foresight, his wisdom, and his ardent support of using that foundation to sustain our democracy. 

Help users

Radio Commentary

Federal drug-control agencies urge schools to help students who use drugs, not just toss them off campus.
Guidelines in a report released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy a few years ago urged treatment and counseling for high school drug users, rather than simply suspending or expelling them.

“The goal is to say we believe we can do a better job of making kids healthy,” said John Walters, who directed the office.
The report said that kicking students out of school without treatment can create “drug-using dropouts,” which is an even bigger problem.
The advice challenges policies in many districts that automatically suspend or expel students caught with drugs.
Kathleen Lyons, spokeswoman for the National Education Association, said her group would back those guidelines.

“That's what we would endorse, helping kids, not simply punishing them,” she said.

She added, “It doesn't do anybody any good just to take a drug test and kick the kid out of school — where's he going to go? It doesn't solve anyone's problem and may, in fact, worsen it.”

Reasonable people can disagree, but I believe this approach makes a lot of sense as we continue to help students overcome drug dependence and pursue healthy lifestyles.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

San Marcos Virtual Enterprise class earns accolades at Bakersfield trade fair

News release

San Marcos High School’s Virtual Enterprise class stepped out of the box and rose to the challenge of participating in the December Trade Fair Competition in Bakersfield, gaining new status as a Virtual Enterprise International corporation.  “We became Entrepreneurs, not ‘wantrepreneurs,’” quipped VE Teacher Tami Ryan. “Our virtual company worked very hard in order to be selected for several competition categories.”

Virtual Enterprise/Economics is a course offered by the Santa Barbara County Education Office Regional Occupational Program for Career Technical Education. Students create a virtual business and hone their entrepreneurial skills by competing throughout the year.

Many individuals and departments made it to category finals, including Florita Charco for Employment Interview, Ashley Perez and Yolanda Resendiz-Avila for Marketing, Armando Espino and Navjot Singh for Human Resources, Monica Diaz for the State Business Challenge, and Florita Charco and Jorge Escamilla and their team for Business Plan.

Several more students came home with Awards:  Armando Chavez, Sixth in Basic Website Design; Elizabeth Carlos, Tenth Place in Video Commercial; and an Honorable Mention for Most Professional Booth, coordinated for the team by Rita Lopez and Catalina Mariscal.

For more information on ROP/CTE in Santa Barbara County, including lists of classes offered in each school district, photos, videos and student testimonials, go to the SBCEO program’s website,

Future teachers explore local colleges

New release
San Marcos High School ROP-CTE Introduction to Education class
 at Cal State Channel Islands with teacher Michael Thrasher
 (photo by Lori Clayton)

San Marcos High School students enrolled in an Introduction to Education course enjoyed field trips to both Cal State Channel Islands and UCSB, learning more about education degrees and teaching certification programs. Days later, the class hosted 13 Westmont College education majors to hear about their teacher education offerings.

The San Marcos teacher-education class is offered by the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Regional Occupational Program for Career Technical Education. Students gain hands-on experience in local classrooms from kindergarten through Grade 9, three times a week over a three-month period.

At Cal State Channel Islands, the newest college in the CSU system, the class encountered a beautiful campus and a dynamic School of Education offering many pathways to the teaching profession. “I believe that going on a tour to Cal State Channel Islands was really good, to be able to see the difference between college and high school expectations,” explained Senior Joseph Alvaro.

A few days later, the Gevirtz School of Education at UCSB welcomed the San Marcos class, along with two other ROP/CTE Education classes from Orcutt Academy and Santa Ynez High School. “I liked the experience at UCSB. I am thinking about going to UCSB after SBCC,” enthusiastic Senior Nicole Renetzky explained. Dr. Tim Dewar opened the session by asking students to think about what education will look like in 2025. Then Dr. Tine Sloan followed this theme with an engaging question, “Why do I have to go to school when I can learn everything on Google?” Several other faculty members presented dynamic demonstrations.

Capping off the students’ college exploration, Westmont Education Professor Michelle Hughes visited the San Marcos Education class with 13 of her students. Hearing the Westmont stories about college life, student teaching, and job opportunities was an exciting experience for the San Marcos group.

Connecting with three local colleges was a great chance for these aspiring teachers to learn about their college options. “California will soon be facing a teacher shortage,” noted Dr. Sloan, Director of Teacher Education at UCSB. Nurturing these “teacher explorers” in their high school years can ensure we produce effective teachers in our own local community.

For more information on ROP/CTE in Santa Barbara County, including lists of classes offered in each school district, photos, videos and student testimonials, go to the SBCEO program’s website,

45th Annual Author-Go-Round slated Jan. 26 through Jan. 30

News release

For the 45th year, upper elementary and junior high school students from schools throughout Santa Barbara County will have the chance to meet and talk with authors and illustrators of books for young people.

The occasion is the annual Author-Go-Round sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Santa Barbara County students will attend the event Jan. 26 through Jan. 30 at the County Education Office Auditorium, 4400 Cathedral Oaks Road, Santa Barbara. The sessions will last from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day.

Each day, approximately 125 students will have an opportunity to listen to four presentations and then spend 15 minutes asking questions and interacting with the authors while seated on carpets in small groups. At a music signal, they will rotate on to the next author.

Participating authors and illustrators include Joan Bransfield Graham, Joe Cepeda, Robin Mellom, and Alexis O’Neill.

The day is further highlighted with colorful carousel decorations and activities with prizes. Each day, one student will be chosen as best overall winner in the four activities categories and will receive a custom-made tee-shirt commemorating the event and signed by the four authors and illustrators.

Students who participate will meet authors of books written specifically for young people, explore avenues of creative writing and illustrating with successful people in the field of literature, and read and discuss in-depth literary works by well-known authors.

Participating districts include Ballard, Blochman, Buellton, Carpinteria, College, Cuyama, Goleta, Guadalupe, Hope, Los Olivos, Montecito, Orcutt, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria-Bonita, Solvang, and Vista del Mar.

“This annual event pays tribute to the reading and writing of children’s literature,” said County Superintendent of Schools William J. Cirone, whose office coordinates the annual event. “The students come away with a sense that they have been involved with a real ‘literary happening.’ ”

Further information is available from Matt Zuchowicz, director of educational technology services, at 964-4710, ext. 5222.

Car safety tips

Radio Commentary

More parents are traveling these days with ever-younger children in tow. When it comes to traveling safely, there are two practices that could save a young life.

First, when traveling in a car, always secure an infant in a car seat in the back seat.

The rear of a car is a far safer place in the event of an accident. Above all, never use an infant seat in the front of a car that has a passenger-side air bag.

If the bag deploys, it can seriously injure an infant by striking the back of the safety seat.

In a case where an older car only has lap belts in the rear, or shoulder straps that cross over the neck or face of a toddler, it is still important to use a safety belt.

In fact, any belt is better than no belt. Use a booster seat for a young child who has outgrown an infant seat. This will elevate the child so that the shoulder strap crosses the chest, not the neck.

If the rear seat has no shoulder straps, buy a booster seat with a harness or a shield. These devices have saved young lives.

Second is remembering that preventive and defensive driving is always the best bet — and drivers should take special precautions when traveling with young passengers.

But sometimes unforeseeable circumstances occur, or other drivers are not exercising the same care as you are.

At those times, it is far better to be prepared by making sure your child is adequately protected.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Enjoying reading

Radio Commentary

It is important that children read well, and also that they like reading.

Experts say the best way parents can encourage this is to read to children often and show how much they enjoy reading themselves.

Start reading when children are very young. Take time to find interesting books. Nursery rhymes and fairy tales are good starters.

Some television shows can be helpful by introducing children to letters and words. However, TV programs generally use sentence structures that are not very complex, which isn’t as useful for learning language patterns.

That is why it’s important to read good literature to children. Children whose parents read to them will often try to read a little on their own or sound out words.

Remember:  There is no precise time or age when children should begin to read on their own.

For most children, reading readiness is a gradual process. It starts when they develop an awareness of print — like print on cereal boxes or store signs. Children want to read when it becomes important to them.

Most children will be more eager to read if they see it is something you enjoy. So set aside time for your own reading and become a good role model for your children. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bad influences

Radio Commentary

Limiting children’s exposure to objectionable or harmful material is a top priority for parents.

A good start is to resist putting TVs or computers in your children’s bedrooms, even though there may be good reasons for doing so.

In fact, it’s a good idea to place the television and computer in areas of the house where everyone has access to them.

Choose a place where you can talk with your pre-teens and they can talk with you about what they’re watching or doing online.

Never underestimate the power of your influence.

Even though children won’t often say thank you for your sound advice, or act grateful when you set limits, your efforts will be appreciated in the long run.

TV, Internet, and video content can overload young people with violent or confusing images and ideas. They may believe or worry that outside the confines of your family those values are the norm.

Especially in the era of reality TV, these thoughts can be very troublesome.

By keeping TVs and computers in a shared area of your home, you can enjoy them together and monitor what is being viewed. It can also spark important family discussions.

It truly makes a difference.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Innovations in Education

January 2015

Talking with Teachers - David Preston

Guest: David Preston
Righetti High School

Post holiday stress

Radio Commentary

Few times of the year match the winter holidays for the sheer joy and excitement felt by young people.
Children tend to get excited by the presents, special food, and even the change of schedule from the everyday routine.

Then it’s all over. The post-holiday letdown can sometimes escalate into post-holiday stress among young and old alike.
If this seems to be the case with your own children, encourage them to talk about their feelings. Give them a chance to draw or write about what might be troubling them.

Reassure them that these feelings are normal for everyone.
You should not be surprised if children exhibit some regressive or aggressive behavior. Try not to get alarmed or overly critical if it does appear.

Remember that this type of behavior is a normal reaction following periods of great excitement.
With your love and support, your children will do just fine.

In fact, it is often a very important lesson to learn that life has peaks and valleys in terms of excitement and happiness. Things can’t always be perfect or thrilling.

It’s both the ups and the downs that lend texture to life, and ultimately lead to wisdom. It’s a hard lesson for children to learn, but an important one.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Parent tips

Radio Commentary

By cultivating the right attitudes and good work habits, parents can help make sure that their children are able to take advantage of all that is offered at school in the second half of the year.

Make sure they know that school is interesting and important, and that parents are valued partners.

Be prepared. Know the school rules. Know what type of homework is assigned, how often, and how long it should take to complete. This information helps your child prepare for each day.

Talk with your child’s teachers throughout the year. They need your help and have as much to learn from you as you do from them.
Attend events at your child’s school.

Talk often with your child about what is happening at school. Ask questions about schoolwork, teachers, and activities.

This will show that you really are interested and really do consider school important.

Establish and maintain a good learning environment at home. Read with your child. Check homework every night, serving as a coach.
Ask teachers for advice. They know about child development and they spend a lot of time with your child.
Be sure to give teachers information such as changes in family circumstances, illness, or a death that could upset your child’s learning.

Teachers can better address a child’s needs if they know the circumstances that might be affecting behavior. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wipe slate clean

Radio Commentary

Here's a great tip for parents who want to help their children do better as school resumes after the holidays: Begin the new year with a clean slate.

Simply erase anything bad that has happened up to this point.

If your children have faced challenges with studying or doing schoolwork, and if that has been a source of conflict, take time out to offer a “peace treaty,” or give them amnesty.

Have both parties agree to allow those memories to fade away into the past and start fresh.

It might be helpful to meet with your child's teacher and ask him or her to do the same thing.

Coming at a challenge from a different perspective, or without a lot of baggage, can lead to better performance and increased motivation.

Children, like adults, must learn to let go of negative thoughts or experiences and start over with new enthusiasm and a can-do attitude.

There is a feeling of renewal that comes from letting go of previous difficulties, and making peace with the challenges that have to be faced.

It helps create an attitude that makes real progress possible in the future. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

School Board Recognition Month

Radio Commentary

January is California School Board Recognition Month.

The state board of education, in extending its wholehearted appreciation to the dedicated individuals who serve on local school boards, cited several aspects of their service.

It acknowledged that an excellent public education system is vital to the quality of life for all California communities.

It pointed out that school board members are locally elected to provide educational leadership and respond to the needs of their communities based on local conditions.

The board cited the fact that school boards are the voice of their communities, serving the interests of students and preparing them for the future.
It acknowledged that school board members must deal with complex educational and social issues and that they are dedicated to upholding public education policies and principles.
It also proclaimed that school board members deserve recognition and thanks for their countless hours of service to the students of California’s public schools.

The California public school system is the largest and most diverse in the nation, serving more than 6.2 million students.
For this reason, the state board joined the entire educational community in encouraging all Californians to thank school board members for all they do for our children and their education.

I invite our community to do the same.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Parent resolutions

Radio Commentary

A new year is the traditional time for making resolutions.
Family Circle Magazine once printed resolutions for parents, and I’m going to repeat them because they help focus our efforts as the new year begins:

I will always love my children for who they are — not who I want them to be.
I will give my child space to grow, to dream, to succeed, and even to fail. Without that space, no growth can occur.

I will create a loving home environment, regardless of what effort it takes at a given time.

When discipline is necessary, I will let my child know that I disapprove of what he does, not who he is.
I will set limits and help my children find security in the knowledge of what is expected of them. They will not have to guess what is right or wrong.

I will make time for all my children and cherish our moments together. I will not burden my children with emotions and problems they are not equipped to deal with.

I will encourage my children to experience the world and all its possibilities, taking pains to leave them careful but not fearful.

I will try to be the kind of person I want my children to be: loving, fair-minded, giving, and hopeful.

These are good resolutions for all of us, don’t you think?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Vision 2015

Radio Commentary

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to take stock, and share our visions for the year that is about to take shape.

This is a good time to restate my personal vision for children in Santa Barbara County. We don’t know what 2015 will hold for them, but I’m sure most members of our community share this vision for all our young people.

We envision children growing up in good health, with a zest for learning and living.

We see them with a spark inside that makes them want to share their talents with those less fortunate, and work for the good of the order, just because it's the right thing to do.

We see children who are free of fear, free of abuse, free of drugs, free of prejudice.

We see children who are free to reach beyond their circumstances, whatever those might be, and to join a society that welcomes their contributions on the job, in the community, and in the voting booth.

And we see a community willing to work together to bring all our children closer to that dream.

If we all work together, and resist pointing the fingers of blame, we can form a circle of responsibility around our children.

We can make sure that our efforts are focused on improving the conditions of children in our community, and work together with that goal always in mind.

Happy New Year to young and old alike.