Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Social skills

Radio Commentary

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bucking peer pressure

Radio Commentary

Parents can help prepare their children to fight peer pressure, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
It helps to role-play about how to say “no.” Act out ways that your child can refuse to go along with friends without becoming a social outcast.
You can’t envision all the circumstances that might arise, but you can cover typical examples of when young people find themselves in awkward situations.
For example, you could say to your child:  “Let’s play a game. Suppose you and your friends are at Andy’s house after school and they find some beer in the refrigerator and ask you to join them in drinking it.”
“You know that the rule in our family is that children are not allowed to drink any alcohol, right? So what could you say to your friends in that situation?”
If your child comes up with a good response, acknowledge it and reinforce how it can be effective.
If nothing springs to mind, offer options. He could say: “No thanks. Let’s play Nintendo instead,” or “No thanks. I don’t drink beer. I need to keep in shape for basketball practice.” 
Or, even better: “That doesn’t sound like fun to me. Let’s go outside.”
The actual response doesn’t matter, as long as your child feels comfortable saying it.
Stress the point that real friends respect each other’s feelings and opinions. And that people who make their friends do harmful things aren’t really friends at all.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Children, ads, obesity

Radio Commentary

According to a report by the Kaiser Family foundation, childhood obesity can be linked to television viewing time — specifically to the 40,000 ads that children see annually on TV.
Children age eight and younger are very vulnerable, because they have trouble distinguishing between ads and programs.
The majority of ads targeting children are for candy, cereal, soda, and fast food. This provides parents with some easy ways to counteract the effects of advertising: 
On shopping trips, let your child see that advertising claims are often exaggerated.
Toys that look big, fast, and exciting on the screen may be disappointingly small, slow, and unexciting close-up.
Tell your child that the purpose of advertising is to sell products to as many viewers as possible.
Put advertising disclaimers into words children understand: “partial assembly required” means “You have to put it together before you can play with it.”
Teach your children about nutrition. If your children can read package labels, allow them to choose a breakfast cereal from those where sugar is not one of the first ingredients listed.
These steps can all have an impact.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spelling bee winners advance to state competition

Four local students have won the right to compete at the state level after coming out on top at the Santa Barbara County Spelling Bee, which was held Wednesday at the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Aidan Garard, a sixth grader at Vieja Valley School in the Hope School District, took first place in the elementary division by correctly spelling “cuckoo.” Keaton Cross, a sixth grader at Kellogg School in the Goleta Union School District, took second place with “coalesce.” Third place went to Daniel Nickolov, a sixth grader at Isla Vista School in the Goleta Union School District. His winning word was “alliance.”

In the junior high division, Tyler Norman, an eighth grader from La Colina Jr. High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, took first place by correctly spelling “bailiff.” Second place went to Emily Donelan, an eighth grader from Laguna Blanca School. Her winning word was “aquiline.” Third place was won by Shio Chiba, an eighth grader from Goleta Valley Jr. High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, correctly spelling “paradisiacal.” The two top winners in each division will proceed to the state level.

Thanks to The Masons Lodge, The Women’s Service Club of Goleta, and Town and Country Women’s Club for their donations.

The 2017 Elementary State Spelling Bee, for grades 4 through 6, will be held May 13 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton. The 2017 State Junior High Spelling Bee, for grades 7 through 9, will be held May 6 at Miller Creek Middle School in San Rafael.

More information is available from Rose Koller of the Santa Barbara County Education Office at 964-4710, ext. 5222.

Left to right: Elementary winners Daniel Nickolov,
3rd place; Aidan Garard, 1st place; Keaton Cross, 2nd place

Left to right: Junior high winners Shio Chiba;
3rd place; Tyler Norman, 1st place; Emily Donelan, 2nd place

Abstract thinking skills

Radio Commentary

Throughout childhood and adolescence, children’s brains are developing in important ways.
One sign of this development is the ability to think about abstract concepts, such as “truth” and “justice.”
During middle school, children become better at abstract thinking, but they still need guidance.
Parents can initiate activities and conversations that involve these skills. Here are some examples that have worked for others:
• Challenge accepted ideas. Ask, “Why shouldn’t athletes cheat?” or “Why don’t children go to school on the weekends?”
Making young people support their accepted beliefs helps them understand the concepts behind those beliefs.
• Talk with your child about imaginary situations. Ask: “What if you won the lottery?” or “What if eating ice cream became illegal?”
• Do science experiments, and have children guess what will happen. Ask: “If we shine a lamp on this plant, will it grow faster or slower?”
• Play games that require thinking ahead. “Battleship,” checkers, and chess are good examples of games that require some strategy.
• Let your children make choices. It’s OK if they make minor mistakes, such as spending their allowance too quickly. Use real-life situations to help your children learn from their choices.
• Play “Twenty Questions.” Use categorical questions in general terms. Ask: “Is it a city?” instead of “Is it Miami?”

All these strategies help children develop their critical thinking skills.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Radio Commentary

More young people are killed by exposure to their parents’ cigarette smoking than by all accidents combined, according to a study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
This is potentially the biggest preventable cause of death in young children, the report concluded.
It linked secondhand smoking to premature deaths caused by low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory infection, and asthma.
Parental smoking also costs the nation $4.6 Billion dollars a year in medical expenses and another $8.2 Billion dollars in loss of life, said the two pediatricians who worked on the study.
“There are lots of things that affect children's health, that reduce their chances for happy, successful lives,” said one doctor. “But here we have something we know how to prevent.”
Exposure to secondhand smoke can decrease lung growth in children, stunt their growth, cause asthma, and increase their lifetime risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.
It is even dangerous before birth, as smoking during pregnancy has been linked to serious physical consequences.
Pediatricians across the country encourage parents to quit smoking, and they try to persuade their teenage patients not to start.
We should all support these efforts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Raising great teens

Radio Commentary

Teenagers need their parents more than ever.
And though they might protest or seem uninterested, teens do consider their parent’s opinions and values when making decisions.
Here are some pointers for maintaining a good relationship with teens:
First, be actively interested in your teens’ life. Know who their friends are and make an effort to meet their parents as well. 
Talk WITH your teen, not AT him. Try to avoid arguments. If things get heated, take a time out from the conversation and come back to it when you are both calm.
Share your thoughts with your teen. Teens are old enough to understand what is going on in the world. Talk about the news.
Take your teen to work so she can see what the work world is like. Talk to him about what he thinks he might do after high school. Let your child know your own stressful circumstances. Children see and hear more than we think.
Make sure to schedule some one-on-one time with your teen. Everyone has busy schedules, but it’s important to take advantage of short times available with undivided attention  — for example, when you are both in the car together.
Take a few minutes to sit in his room when you go in to say goodnight, and talk about things.  Family dinners are also a good time to talk, so try to eat together as often as possible.
Find an activity you can enjoy together, whether going to the gym or watching the news.  It all makes a difference.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Signs of drug use

Radio Commentary

The Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse has developed eight points to help raise drug-free kids:
• Talk to your children.
• Listen to your children.
• Set standards of right and wrong.
• Remember they learn by example.
• Love, support, and praise them so they will have a sense of self-worth.
• Keep them busy.
• Be involved with their lives.
• Educate yourself about drugs.
These are wonderful general principles that all parents should keep in mind. But they are not guarantees in any sense.
Many parents have asked how they can know, in time to be helpful, whether their children are involved with drugs.
The council has listed some warning signs for parents to look for that could signal involvement with drugs. These include:
• A drop in school performance
• A lack of interest in grooming
• Withdrawal, isolation, or depression
• Aggressive or rebellious behavior
• Excessive influence by peers
• Hostility and lack of cooperation
• Deteriorating relationships with family
• Loss of interest in hobbies and sports
• A change of friends
• A change in eating or sleeping habits

Always remember: help is available.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Homework tips

Radio Commentary

Without review, the average student can forget 80 percent of what he has read in just two weeks. 
To help students retain what they have learned, the first review of the material should come very shortly after they have studied the material for the first time. 
An early review acts as a check on forgetting and helps them remember much longer. When the time comes to review for a test, the material is fresher in their minds and easier to recall.
Sometimes, it also helps to recite the material out loud. Recitation reinforces the material and creates a different pathway into the child’s memory banks. 
After reading a paragraph, it often helps to have the student use his or her own words to describe key ideas.
One other homework tip has proven effective for many families: When students are given a study assignment that will be due in a few weeks, the students should spend time reviewing the tasks and creating a timeline the very first night. 
They should read through it carefully, and think about all the elements that need to be done — including research, memorization, artwork, or other creative touches.
The main advantage is that the student avoids waiting until the last minute and discovering, too late, everything that should have been done in the meantime.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Early adolescence

Radio Commentary

The toughest time for parents to connect with their children is probably the young adolescent years from 10 to 15, when parental support is the most important.
Those are the years when children strive to develop their identity, listen to their peers, and pay attention to the latest styles, no matter how strange they may look to adults.
It’s also the time when they can make decisions that will follow them throughout their lives. 
Parents should understand that change at this time is a natural part of maturing. 
Your young adolescent is not the first to experience doubt, anxiety, or worry.
Remember when it happened to you? And remember that it will eventually end.
Be sure to fight only the important battles. There will be a wide range of issues that arise during this time. Your child may decide to dye his hair and may associate with peers who are experimenting with drugs. 
Clearly the drug issue would have a much greater impact on his life. It might prove wiser to bite your tongue when you’re tempted to react to the short-term problem of hair color.
Young adolescents often think they are the only ones ever to experience what is now occurring. Remind them, by sharing your own stories, that this is not the case.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dealing with bullies

Radio Commentary

Children as young as five can start jockeying for social power, and some may even begin to inflict cruelty on other children.  
Young people who are victims of bullies respond in various ways. Some may talk about the torment they are receiving. Others may just come home and fall apart. They might cry or throw tantrums for no apparent reason.
If you know that your child is being bullied, talk to the principal or school counselor as soon as possible.
Describe in detail what is happening and how often. Let school officials explain the steps they will take to promote a healthy learning environment and keep your child safe.
At home, help empower your child by letting her know you believe she can handle social situations.
Help her find the right words to say, like “You can’t do that to me,” or “You need to stay away from me.” Practice role-playing to help prepare your child and build his courage.
Bullies seem less likely to pick on children who have friends, so encourage your child’s friendships.
Host “play dates” and help your child find extracurricular activities. Having friends in other places, outside of school, can build confidence.
A child who feels successful socially will be able to see that it’s the bully’s problem, not hers.
In fact, a child who feels more secure and less vulnerable is less likely to be picked on, so work hard to reinforce those traits.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hopeful but vigilant

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

We strongly support children and public education, regardless of who is in charge at the federal level, but we must agree with the recent comments by Diane Ravitch, education historian and former U.S. assistant secretary of education. She expressed the feelings of so many educators and parents regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education when she said, “It is troubling and a sad day for American public education when a person who has repeatedly expressed contempt for public schools is confirmed as secretary of education.” Never a student, a parent, or school board member of public education, DeVos has “devoted her life’s work to tear down public education,” Ravitch said.

DeVos’s history of advocacy for privatization and for-profit charter schools, and her lack of respect for separation of church and state, are all troubling. As author Garrison Keillor wrote, “When you wage war on public schools you’re attacking the mortar that holds the community together.”

Our Founding Fathers created a country based on the radical idea that all people were created equal and should have input into their own governance. We would not be led by a monarch or a despot with concentrated power, as much of Europe was at the time.

Our citizens were provided with the right to vote for their representatives, and with that right came the responsibility to be educated.

The genius of our Founding Fathers is reflected in the documents they crafted and the democratic nation they built, and also in their realization that the power to vote had to be based on adequate knowledge and judgment. They decided that the way to make sure all citizens were equipped for the task was to provide free, universal education for every child. Thomas Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be."

It is hard to imagine today how radical the idea of free universal education was at the time: By deeming that it was the responsibility of every adult to make sure that every child in the community had a free, public education, our founders were ensuring that democracy would succeed.

Public schools taught important subject matter and civic literacy, and they were also the glue that bound our country together — a shared and unifying experience, regardless of race, creed, or any other trait that separated us rather than binding us together as a community. Democracy at its best.

Over time, public schools evolved. Just as many people now choose what news they wish to watch, many parents now choose what subject matter they wish their children to learn. Homeschooling, charter schools, and private schools are viable alternatives for many families.

Many charter schools, including those in Santa Barbara County, have proven to be highly effective and successful. Many elsewhere have not. Widespread coverage of the investigation into charter schools in Los Angeles, for example, shows that serious malfeasance has reportedly occurred. Even charter school advocates expressed strong concern about DeVos. “At the risk of saying the obvious, we must have a secretary of education who believes in public education and the need to keep the public schools public,” said charter school champion Eli Broad.

We fully support parents’ ability to do what they feel is in their child’s best interest. We do believe, however, that all schools that receive public funds should be held accountable to the same standards. The outcome for children is too important to do anything less. We also will speak out if public schools come under attack, because they are too vital to our nation’s interests and to the best interests of our children and families.

Our stance remains nonpartisan. On one hand, as educators, we are troubled that the new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has no experience with public schools and apparently little knowledge of how they operate. We are troubled by her antipathy to public education and her support for allowing firearms in our schools. These troubling facts are likely why she received the lowest congressional support of any cabinet member in our nation’s history. Senators nationwide were bombarded with calls from concerned parents everywhere.

On the other hand, we support all individuals, regardless of party or ideology, who demonstrate they are advocates for ALL children and their education. It is our hope and expectation that Betsy DeVos will look to public education as part of the solution in these troubled times. This is an important time to support and involve teachers, our true community heroes, and to unite us in our quest to do what’s right for all our children. We will remain hopeful and vigilant. Our children’s future is too important to do anything less.

Traits of success

Radio Commentary

According to author Doris Lee McCoy, successful people have several traits in common. The good news is that parents can help nurture and cultivate these traits among their children.
  First, successful people enjoy their work. They can be good at it because they like doing it.
  Successful people almost always have a positive attitude and plenty of confidence that gets them through the rough spots.
  They invariably use negative experiences to discover their strengths. They see negatives as challenges to overcome and to learn from.
  Successful people are also decisive, disciplined goal-setters. They don’t let distractions get in the way.
  They have integrity, and they help others succeed.
  Successful people are also persistent. They keep at it until the goal is reached, where others may get discouraged and choose another path.
  They’re also risk takers, in the spirit of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
  They’ve developed good communication skills and problem-solving skills.
  They surround themselves with competent, responsible, and supportive people, and know how to tell the difference.
  They’re healthy, high-energy people, and they schedule time to renew themselves before problems can arise.
These traits apply to young and old alike.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sparking curiosity

Radio Commentary

Sparking a child’s curiosity can be one of the important keys to lifelong learning. Parents can play a vital role in this process.
For example, you can make up trivia games to play with children, even when you’re on the run.
You can also help children become active partners in the learning process by giving them a chance to experiment around the house with measuring, cooking, repairing broken items, and other activities that require finding and using information.
You’d be surprised at what your home yields if you look around with a curious eye.
Also, be sure to keep up with what’s going on in your child’s school.
Attend school events and send notes to teachers to express your availability to help. Write teachers when you have questions or concerns, and make an appointment to share your observations.
Get involved with your children by asking for detailed descriptions of what they’re studying at school. Have them teach you some parts of what they’ve learned.
Be sure your children know that you consider their education to be very important.
Even if you can attend only a few school events, your presence will show your children that you’re interested in their school life and you value its importance.
That’s a crucial lesson for them to learn, and it can only come from the home.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Local Leaders with Bill Cirone (Steve Hinkley)

Steve Hinkley
MOXI Museum