Thursday, June 30, 2016


Radio Commentary

Toddlers love to help around the house. Older children become far less excited about doing chores. They have busy schedules of homework, extracurricular activities, and friends.
But chores are a good way to give young people responsibility for a needed task, and remind them that they are contributing members of the family.
Here are some tips for getting your children to chip in with family chores:
First, make sure the chores are age-appropriate. It’s not a good idea to send a young child to take the trash outside by herself, for example. You can do it together, though, and help her learn until she is ready to do it alone.
Also, start young. When a child is in preschool, give him easy chores to get him in the habit of helping out. 
A five-year-old can help clear the table, or put away his clean clothes.
Make sure your children feel they were successful in completing their chores, especially given that the goal is to help them gain self-confidence.
Acknowledge when the chore is complete, and be sure to thank your child for the effort expended, every time. 
It also helps to make a family chore list to remind everyone of what is expected, and to let them have the satisfaction of checking off work that’s been done.
Mixing in a new chore can keep things interesting, along with rotating chores for different children. Everyone can help out and feel good about it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Passion for learning

Radio Commentary

Turning children into lifelong learners can be the ultimate joy for teachers and parents alike.
The benefits of this effort will continue to emerge throughout an entire lifetime.
Getting A’s is a great feeling for a student. But in the long run, generating a genuine curiosity and desire to learn can make a bigger difference than any grade on a test.
Imagine the potential of children who are curious about the world around them and who are happy with themselves. 
That combination can lead to success in almost any arena.
Parents and teachers have the power to set the tone for a child’s academic accomplishments.
Praise children for their effort, for working independently, and for the energy they’ve spent in achieving a goal.
The process of studying well and learning deeply should be the highest priority.
If you look behind good grades you will often find a great deal of love and support.
Your children deserve the best chance to become true, lifelong learners.
Help maintain their enthusiasm for gaining knowledge, not just good grades.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summertime activities K-3

Radio Commentary

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

No child left INSIDE

Radio Commentary

It’s hard to believe it has come to this, but childhood is no longer synonymous with outdoor play.
Children are spending an average of 45 hours a week in front of a screen – televisions, computers, computer games. They are not spending time outdoors.
Children know how to build websites at a very early age, but not necessarily forts or tree houses.
Nature is becoming something on a television channel, not something in their backyard.
Research has confirmed what our grandmothers always said: “Go play outside. It’s good for you.”
It turns out that nature is important to children’s development in every major way —intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically.
Playing in nature is especially important to help children increase their capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development.
For children’s sake, parents need to be sure they play outdoors at least some of the time.
Leave No Child Inside is the name of a nationwide movement aiming to do just that, but parental encouragement is still the best way to reconnect kids with nature.
It’s an easy way to make a positive difference in children’s development in so many areas. Just send them outside in a safe area to play. They’ll figure out what to do.

Friday, June 24, 2016

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.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Reading over the summer

Radio Commentary

Summer gives children a good break from the stresses of the academic assignments and tests they face during the school year.
But it is important to keep some skills active so that children don’t completely lose the drive to learn and to read.
Studies show that children who read during the summer make gains in their reading skills. Those who do not read over the summer can experience learning losses.
Here are some ways to keep your child learning and reading throughout the extended break from the classroom.
First, have plenty of reading material around your home.
Storybooks aren’t the only thing that young people can read for fun. Be sure to have newspapers, magazines, and informational material on hand that might spark the interest of a young reader.
Continue to read aloud with children. Take them to see a local storyteller — or be one yourself. Don’t forget to improvise different voices or wear a silly hat to make the story that much more interesting.
What’s important is to keep the reading skills active. 
It’s also critical to reinforce for young people the idea that reading can be fun and exciting. It can cure boredom and expand the mind. It can provide great adventures and help them meet really interesting people. 
And it’s a great way to spend your time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Helping children cope with stress

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

With constant, around-the-clock coverage of the awful events that unfolded in Orlando last weekend, it is not unusual for children to show signs of stress. Stress is the reaction of our minds and bodies to unsettling experiences. Too much stress can have negative consequences and can even make us ill. For this reason, the things that cause stress in children should be taken seriously before they are able to cause harm.
What are the signs of a distressed child? Anger, aggressiveness, anxiety, crankiness, bedwetting, crying too easily, overeating, increased clumsiness, hair twisting, teeth clenching, fighting with other children, or withdrawing from them, or failing at school, are all on the list.
Causes of stress can lurk anywhere: Pressure from home or school; being too busy with over-loaded schedules; family changes such as divorce or remarriage; feeling unloved or misunderstood; unsettling events elsewhere in the world can also trigger stress in children.
It’s important to remember that children cannot analyze and control stress-causing events as well as adults can. They need guidance from adults.
Family support is a vital antidote to stress, so be sure to relax and talk together. Curb access to violent TV shows and movies. Keep daily life calm. Pets are often a good buffer and an emotional refuge. Relaxed parents, who cope positively with their own stress, pass on these skills to children.
It also helps to maintain a network of friends and activities outside the home. The support and acceptance plays a very helpful role.
Children also cope better with stress in their lives when they don’t feel helpless. So teach them how to care for themselves and take on family responsibilities as they grow. Show them to balance chores and play. Help them plan schedules that are tenable. Show them the importance of adequate rest and proper nutrition. All these precautions help prevent stress from erupting in the first place.
Encourage your children to ask for help when they need it, analyze their problems as they arise, and plan their alternatives for coping.
It’s been demonstrated that children who enjoy learning have good defenses against stress, so encourage your children to keep their minds sharp, even while school is out for the summer. But remember that too much academic pressure is a chief cause of childhood stress, so don’t go overboard.
If your child is having persistent problems handling stress, don’t hesitate to contact a professional for help. These professionals are trained at mixing coping skills like group discussions, role-playing, films, and problem-solving exercises. There’s an old adage: “If you see something, say something.” It is as important that we abide by that maxim—both at home and in the school or workplace.

Public funding for schools

Radio Commentary

Early in our nation’s history, some taxpayers accepted the principle of public schooling but balked at government funding of schools.
The early proponents of public schools won the discussion by making some strong points: 
They asserted that the education of all children is a vital public interest and, more to the point, a shared responsibility.
They believed that public funding was critical to give schools a consistent base of support and make them accountable to the American people.
These early advocates also felt that public funding would lessen inequities in education and that it would help ensure a basic level of quality among all schools.
They felt that public responsibility for education would improve opportunities for children whose schooling was neglected.
In 1903, the civil rights leader W. E. B. Du Bois wrote:
“Education and work are the levers to uplift a people. Work alone will not do it, unless inspired by the right ideals and guided by intelligence. Education must not simply teach work – it must teach Life.”
These points formed the strong basis for public schooling that endures to this day. Consistent public funding and a shared responsibility for educating all of our children must always remain core values.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Boating, sun safety

Radio Commentary

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

TV and information

Radio Commentary

Children used to acquire knowledge of the world in a gradual, controlled way. They learned how to behave by watching adults and modeling their actions.
The slowly developing reading skills of young people restricted them mostly to stories and facts that were deemed suitable for their age level.
But times have changed. Today children are flung quickly into the realm of adult knowledge.
Certainly the mass media bombard children with messages at every turn. Rock and rap song lyrics, DVDs, and advertising all play their parts. Television, the Internet, and computer games are also major players.
Messages in ads, TV programs and games — in print, online, and even some content on the nightly news — would have been shocking to see just one short generation ago.
Young viewers can’t always distinguish between the drama and trauma of reality shows and adventure shows, and the day-to-day routine that most adults live.
Without proper guidance, children can grow up dissatisfied with lives less exciting and glamorous than the TV heroes they admire or those on their computer screens. Those figures can avoid handling conflicts that can’t be solved in 22 minutes — or worse, in 22 seconds.
Creating a family of media critics is one answer to this challenge. “Talking back” to the TV or computer screen is a good first step. And remember to be aware of media content, and use good judgment in your selections.
These steps are a key to raising healthy, well-adjusted children.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Mothers’ degrees

Radio Commentary

High standards and accountability are critical to school reform, and I strongly support both these areas. 
I do worry that using test scores as the sole measure of progress can mask the more complete picture. Here’s a quiz we often use to illustrate the point: 
Which of the following factors is the most accurate predictor of a school’s standardized test scores?
A. The quality of the teaching staff
B. The percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunches
C. The number of children who moved from another school during the year
D. The average number of hours volunteered each week
E. The number of mothers who hold a college degree.
The answer is E.
Nationwide, schools with the highest number of mothers with college degrees have the highest test scores. No other factor correlates as highly.
But the answer is also ‘all of the above,’ because ALL these factors correlate with test scores. 
Everyone agrees we must have a means to evaluate how well a student has grasped the subject matter that’s been taught, and good tests do just that. 
But sometimes it is hard for students to show on a test what they really know quite well. The problem is dealing with the way a question is asked, not the information itself.
We need to know which students are truly falling short in knowledge so that we can help them succeed. The correlating factors remind us that when it comes to achievement, test scores can never tell us the whole story.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Radio Commentary

We’ve made a lot of progress in reducing the number of children who are accidentally poisoned each year. Much of the credit is due to public education on the topic.
In the 1960s, more than 450 children under the age of 5 were dying from accidental poisoning each year. That total has fallen to about 30. But it’s still too high.
Simple precautions remain critical:
  • Keep medicines in their original childproof containers, stored out of reach.
  • Follow the doctor’s instructions carefully when giving medicine to children.
  • Store household cleaners safely — a high percentage of poisonings involve everyday cleaning products, cosmetics, cough and cold remedies, antibiotics, and vitamins.
  • Teach children never to eat anything you haven’t approved.

A typical household contains products such as bleach, fertilizers, or paint stripper that can be fatal to a child.
If your child swallows a poison, you must act quickly and calmly:
If the child is conscious, determine exactly what was swallowed. The child could lose consciousness at any time.
Call 9-1-1 or the local poison control center.
Have the container on hand so you can tell the center the exact contents of what was swallowed. If the child must go to the hospital, be sure to take the poison container with you for the doctors there.
Stay calm and give the professionals short, precise answers, because time is often critical.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Talking with Teachers with Bill Cirone

Michelle Minetti-Smith
Santa Barbara County
2017 Teacher of the Year
Mary Buren School
Guadalupe Union School District

Cirone on Schools

Julie Danalevich
Santa Barbara High School junior
Partners in Education

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 Red Cross has important safety tips for supervising children anytime they are at a pool or pond:
Never let a child swim alone. 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, with 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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

State preschools enrolling for the 2016-2017 school year

News release

Children ages three through five* years in Lompoc, Los Alamos, and Santa Ynez whose parents are income-eligible can receive free preschool instruction in centers operated by the Santa Barbara County Education Office's Child Development Programs. Preschool is offered in the following locations:

  • DeColores State Preschool
, Clarence Ruth School, 501 North W St., Rm. 1 (Lompoc)

  • Just for Kids State Preschool
, Arthur Hapgood School, 324 South A St., Rm. 34 (Lompoc)

  • La Honda State Preschool
, La Honda Elementary, 608 E. Central Ave. (Lompoc)

  • Learning Place State Preschool
, Crestview Elementary, VAFB Utah Ave., Rm. K1 (Lompoc)

  •  Los Alamos State Preschool
, Olga Reed School, 480 Centennial St., Rm. 1 (Los Alamos)

  • Santa Ynez State Preschool
, College School, 3525 Pine St. (Santa Ynez)

  • Young Learners State Preschool
, La Cañada Elementary, 621 West North Ave., Rm. 37 (Lompoc)

Preschool services are provided three hours per day during the school year. Included is a daily nutritious snack in centers that are nationally accredited. Children participate in play-based school readiness learning activities with highly qualified teachers and teaching assistants. The SBCEO-operated preschools are each licensed and are of the highest quality rating, both nationally and in the State of California, and offer excellent student/teacher ratios.
ENROLL NOW by calling Ana M. Hernandez, Administrative Secretary, at 964-4710, ext. 4409. You will be placed on the waiting list. Teachers will contact you when they return in August.
*Children who turn 5 BEFORE September 1 are ineligible.

Summer activities

Radio Commentary

Summer can continue to be a time of learning for young people, and it’s important that parents keep that in mind.
As a family, choose an important news event to follow for a day or two. Ask each person to find as much information on the topic as possible — read newspapers, listen to the radio, watch TV news, or check online. Then talk about what everyone has learned.
You can also make a family game of discussing a special issue. For example: “Teenagers should be allowed to vote.” Or, “There should never be any homework.”
Ask your children to think of all the reasons they can to support their views. Then ask them to think of reasons opposing their views.
Which views are most convincing?
For variety, you can assign family members to teams and have them prepare their arguments, pro and con.
Exercise also helps keep the mind sharp, and summertime is a great time for fitness. Ask your children to do at least one kind of exercise every day. For example, they could run or walk briskly for 10 minutes. 
When possible, they should walk, instead of riding in a car, for any distance less than a mile.
Have your children create their own week-long exercise plans. Try to think of a modest reward for sticking to the plan. Then exercise right along with your children, for everyone’s health.

Monday, June 13, 2016

TV as positive

Radio Commentary

Watching TV can be a positive activity for children if viewed in the right context.
Watch a program with your children that takes place in another part of the United States, or another country, and find the site on a map or globe. 
Read a story from that area, learn about that place’s history, or cook a meal from that culture.
Help your child develop an understanding of time by comparing lengths of TV shows. Compare a half-hour show to a one-hour show, or to a two-hour movie.
Teach your child how to tell time by comparing the current position of the clock hands to the time when a specific show comes on. 
You could teach a child the days of the week in the same way with a calendar.
Develop simple word problems using television. For example: “If there are six commercials and each is 30 seconds long, how many minutes of commercials will you watch during this program?”
Watch the news with your children and follow a story. Watch the same story on different channels and discuss the differences and similarities. Find the same topic in the newspaper, a magazine, or on the Internet and compare the coverage.
It is almost impossible to eliminate TV viewing. By talking about it, and making it a learning experience, you can help make television a positive part of your child’s life.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Summer schedules

Radio Commentary

In most households, summertime means a change of schedule from the usual routine. When children are involved, this change can get tricky to navigate, because children tend to be creatures of habit.
Here are some suggestions to help make the transition as smooth as possible:
If children will be home alone for a while, discuss your expectations and household rules. Tell children what they can’t do, what they can do, and when they can do it.
Be very specific and try to cover as many contingencies as possible.
Stage a practice run before you leave children alone. Let them rehearse the routine while you’re away but nearby.
They can call you if they run into any snags, and you can show them how the situation should be handled in the future.
Make sure your children know that you trust them, and that letting them stay alone is helping them become even more responsible. But be sure to warn them that if they can’t follow the rules, they will lose the privilege of caring for themselves.
Post the rules on the refrigerator door where they will be easily accessible.
As an example, many families allow snacking but no cooking. Children should not be allowed to have visitors except for those you have approved in advance.
Rules of this sort protect your children’s safety while giving them a sense of importance and responsibility for their own actions. It’s never too early to start on that important road.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Role models

Radio Commentary

If you think your children aren’t watching your actions, you’re mistaken.
Children watch adults all the time — especially their parents. And children often imitate what adults do.
So here’s a good tip: Try to model whatever you would like your children to pick up.
If you want your children to be polite, then let them see you being polite in a variety of situations. That’s how they learn.
Next time you’re prone to express some frustration while in the car with your children, stop and remember that they will pick up on how you express your anger.
If you yell, you can bet that sometime, in another situation, your children will be doing their own interpretation of your performance.
Whether it’s a young child trying to make sense of adult behavior, or a teen trying on a variety of personas, young people are more watchful than you realize.
It can be helpful to remember that the spotlight is always shining. Many parents find they benefit in the process, by modifying their behavior for the better.
Of course, no one can be perfect. If your children see you act in a way you would not like them to behave, take the time to talk and explain the situation.
Remind them that even adults act impulsively and regret their actions at times.
Learning is a never-ending process.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bedrock principles

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools
It’s very clear that what sets America apart from other civilizations is our value system. Our respect for life, liberty, democracy, and social equality, and our tolerance for different religious views and lifestyles — these are all bedrock principles on which this country was founded.
These values are also the foundation of healthy communities, respectful workplaces, and safe schools, so they must be passed on to each new generation.
A child’s sense of morality and social conscience begins at home, and parents can nurture it. They can discuss with their children values such as the importance of each person’s life, respect for others’ property, compassion for the less fortunate, tolerance for people who are different, and respect for rules and laws.
It is important to emphasize courtesy, honesty, and cooperation in everyday life. Explain to children that money isn’t everything, and that helping others brings personal satisfaction in many ways.
Learn to disagree by using words. If a local school offers adults an opportunity to take part in a conflict management program, sign up. You can learn techniques and approaches that will work well with children and will help you pass along those models at home and in the workplace. The most important skill is learning how to turn feelings of anger and frustration into positive action
When necessary, say no. Intervene when needed. It is difficult for parents to acknowledge signs of antisocial behavior in their own children and to seek professional guidance. But while most children develop appropriate social skills as they mature, others may begin showing antisocial patterns as early as the fourth grade. Some of these trouble signs include excessive use of intimidation and force to get their own way, frequent and skillful lying, and routine reliance on cheating or stealing.
Children who exhibit these behaviors may need some professional help to redirect their energies and anxieties. Parents are in the best position to sense when help is needed, and early intervention can make a profound difference.
There are no secret ingredients to making a healthy character or a good citizen or a responsible employee. Parents, educators and all community members need to teach, nurture, and model these bedrock principles on which our nation was founded.

Prediction skills

Radio Commentary

Reading skills are often enhanced through the use of prediction skills.
Good readers use prediction throughout their reading. They constantly anticipate what will happen next.
When reading with your child, find time to have the child write down what he or she thinks is going to take place.
Do this at the end of a chapter or in between the illustrations of a picture book.
Beginning readers need stories that are highly predictable. This predictability may take the form of rhyme, repetition, or patterned language.
Help children write down their prediction of the next word in a sequence.
They can then compare their choice with the one in the book. 
One good exercise is to make up short stories and have children write several endings.
You can then talk about which ending is “most predictable” or “most unbelievable” or “most inventive.” 
Experts agree: When helping your child become a strong reader, writing down predictions can be a valuable tool for improved reading skills.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Practicing Kindergarten skills

Radio Commentary

With summer almost underway, it’s a good time for parents with children who will be entering kindergarten to start preparing and orienting them for the classroom.
In Kindergarten, children will work on naming upper and lower-case letters and matching those with their sounds. Practice in this area is especially helpful.
Children will compare the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories like fairy tales and folk tales. This can be fun to do together.
Kindergartners also use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to describe an event and include their reaction to it.
They learn to recognize, spell, and properly use those grammatical little words that hold the language together, like “a,” “the,” “to,” “of,” “is,” and “are.” Helping them practice that will make them feel more confident.
In math, they will count objects and compare groups to tell which has more units. They will solve simple addition and subtraction word problems, with sums of 10 or less.
Also, they will name shapes regardless of orientation — if a square is oriented as a “diamond,” it is still a square.
Parents and children can both have fun practicing these skills over the summer to help prepare for the coming school year.