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Recently in: School-Age

FrugalMoms Guide to Kid's Sports Equipment


by Angela Heidt
We all want our kids to be involved in sports activities, as we know that doing so will keep them healthy, happy, and out of trouble.... Read more

Surviving Your Child's Adolescence


Adolescence: "What the heck?!" (Do your kids say that all the time? Mine do.) By Julie Burton As I entered the parenting arena nearly 1... Read more

Easing Into Summer


by the Editors of Your Family Today School's out for summer ... so why aren't your kids jumping for joy? Many children, especially young ones, have d... Read more

More Articles in: School-Age



Winning Savings on Sports Apparel and Equipment


by Valerie Spate

The parents of young athletes know that while sports equipment and apparel can be quite expensive, it rarely gets used long enough to need replacing. Instead, most of these items are outgrown and, unless they can be handed down to a younger sibling, much of the cost is wasted. There are, however, many options that parents may take advantage of in order to keep these costs under control. These range from the straightforward, like using Finishline Coupons, to the more creative, like forming an equipment co-op within a team community.

The Basics 

The high cost of sports equipment is not a new development for parents. Similar to the challenge that parents face when keeping their children clothed, the rate at which kids can outgrow items has been frustrating parents for decades. The first step in managing costs is to try to spend less when purchasing these items. This may range from using online coupon codes, shopping sales, buying at the end of a given season in the hopes that discounted items will fit next year and shopping for lightly used items. Used sports equipment has become more mainstream through both websites like Craigslist and stores like Play It Again Sports. Either of these latter options can be an effective way to keep the cost of apparel and equipment lower than buying new.

Varsity Ideas

 The economic challenges that have arisen over the past several years have led parents to look for ways to more significantly manage their budgets. In the sports arena, one such approach has been to form equipment co-ops with a given community. For example, if the local park district has an active hockey program, the parents in the community may choose to come together to defray costs. After the initial start-up costs have been absorbed, a parent may sell used equipment to the co-op, while simultaneously buying other equipment. Essentially, the community allows the parents of various athletes to contribute equipment that they can no longer use in exchange for equipment that fits plus a small fee. The net effect is to dramatically reduce the cost for all participants.

One of the obvious questions that arises within the co-op scenario is to address what happens if one cannot find the right size. This might occur, for example, after some equipment has been worn out. While this is certainly a concern, in most cases certain members of the community will favor new equipment. These players will likely purchase new apparel and equipment and still be willing to sell their used equipment to the co-op. Players requiring new equipment may be those that excel in the sport, but this is not always the case. Regardless of the driving factor, in many instances, such a co-op can function smoothly and offer significant price savings to those most interested in defraying costs.

While sports equipment and apparel are an expensive element of raising children, there are options available to keep costs under control.

Valerie Spate is always searching for the best deals and coupons to help to reduce costs for her growing family.

... Continue reading Winning Savings on Sports Apparel and Equipment.

Biggest Bully Apologizes

By Helice "Sparky" Bridges
Founder and CEO
Difference Makers International

"The deepest desire in the human spirit is the craving to be acknowledged."
-William James, Father of American Psychology

• Children who bully are more likely to come from home situations in which there is little warmth and little positive adult attention.
• Two out of three teens are verbally or physically assaulted every year.
• A victim of bullying is twice as likely to take his or her life compared to someone who is not a victim.
-Source: Mental Health Systems, Inc. - San Diego, California

So often we hear people say, "kids are so mean today." The media is flooded with stories about bullying and cyber bullying. Front page newspapers tell the tragic stories of young people committing suicide because they were constantly bullied. In an effort to put an end to this social issue facing today's youth, Difference Makers International has begun a grassroots campaign that is helping all kids feel safe- socially, emotionally and physically.

"There are no bullies--only people who need to be loved." Helice "Sparky" Bridges

Can we make this change? You bet! In my opinion, there are no bullies-only people who need to be loved. Our work teaches young people how to eradicate bullying, avert adolescent suicide and make dreams come true through the power of acknowledgment. We are collaborating with the Mental Health Systems, Inc. Bully Prevention Training so that every teacher and student will know how to end bullying.

Our school, family and community Power of Acknowledgment Training Programs will soon be delivered to over 30,150 elementary, middle school students and high schools in San Diego with a community outreach to approximately 100,000,-creating conversations that shift the focus from what's WRONG to what is RIGHT.

Our "Who I Am Makes A Difference"® Blue Ribbon message has impacted over 30 million people worldwide and has been translated into 11 languages. The Blue Ribbon Story appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul recounting the story of a 14 year-old boy who did not commit suicide because his father honored him with a Blue Ribbon and finally told him he loved him. This story was made into a photo movie receiving over three million hits on YouTube.

Recently our school assemblies and student leadership trainings were delivered at Parsons Middle School in Redding, California and Northeast Intermediate School in Midland, Michigan with gymnasiums packed with nearly 1,000 students, teachers, parents and community leaders.

To show students how they could eradicate bullying in a minute or less, I gave them an opportunity to step to the front of the auditorium, speak into the microphone and do one of the following: 1) Publically apologize for bullying or harming anyone, 2) share their dreams and ask for support or 3) or tell someone how they make a difference and honor them with a "Who I Am Makes A Difference"® Blue Ribbon.

In an instant, students leaped out of their seats and ran down from the bleachers. One by one they stepped to the mike, said their name, and without asking were enthusiastically applauded.

"I want to honor my math teacher," one boy announced. "I always mess up in class but you just keep encouraging me." Then the boy placed a Blue Ribbon over his teacher's heart, cheered him on for his dreams and gave him a hug.

"I'd like people to stop putting me down for my weight," a girl timidly requested. The audience exploded with applause as a way of publicly saying that they were sorry.

"I want to be a football player," announced the small 5' proud 7th grader. "Outstanding," I shouted inviting everyone to cheer Mike on for his dream. They did!

"I want to apologize for bullying my little brother," said the 9th grader. "He's a really great guy and I love him." His younger brother raced down to the open arms of his big brother. They hugged and cried openly. The auditorium went silent. Later on the principal told me that the big brother was the biggest bully in the school.

"I am a bully," said the 15 year-old girl. "I want to apologize for being so mean. I don't really want to be mean, I just get so angry all the time. What I really want is to make friends and treat people nicely, but I don't know how." Everyone in the gymnasium leaped to their feet and gave her a thunderous standing ovation.

Following these assemblies, students continued to apologize, share their dreams and acknowledge their teachers and siblings. Many immediately called their parents to say there were sorry. Teachers were shocked with the kindness taking place in their classrooms and hallways. We would like to see this occur across campuses worldwide.

Together we can eradicate bullying. "IGNITE WHAT'S RIGHT"™ has exploded into a nation wide campaign. Students, parents, teachers, neighbors and clergy are inviting us to teach programs. Contact us to find out how your school (K-12), college, organization business and/or neighborhood can help all kids feel safe-socially, emotionally and physically. Contact us at: DifferenceMakersInternational.org, info@blueribbons.org or 760-753-0963.

... Continue reading Biggest Bully Apologizes.

Making Field Trips Possible Despite Budget Cuts

Education budgets are being cut nationwide, forcing schools across the country to eliminate valuable programs such as field trips. According to a recent report by the American Association of School Administrators, 11 percent of schools nationwide reported eliminating field trips in 2008-2009. This number grew to 24 percent in 2009-2010 and topped a staggering 51 percent for the 2010-2011 school year.

Many experts agree that field trips can be an integral part of a child's education, giving students real-life experience to supplement abstract classroom lessons-and parents and caregivers play an important role in creating great field trip experiences.

"Parents are vital to the success of their children's education," says Charles J. "Chuck" Saylors, National Parent-Teacher Association President. "Partnering with their child's teacher to chaperone, helping raise funds or creating trip opportunities through their personal connections in order to provide memorable learning experiences outside the classroom are just a few ways parents can have a tremendous impact."

Despite schools' limited resources, parents can suggest low-budget, high-impact field trip options that can engage students and add memorable experiences to their curriculum. Here are a few ideas:

* Colleges or Universities: Many local colleges and universities offer a rich array of field trip opportunities through performances, classroom visits and general college tours-often at a minimal cost. Not only do students get a unique learning experience, they're also exposed to what college has to offer. These visits can be especially beneficial for students who might not have previously considered attending college.

* Local Historical Societies and Sites: State and local historical societies allow students to experience history through hands-on, interactive activities. Whether it's seeing how their ancestors lived or discovering local connections to national events, these field trips take history out of the textbook and make it real. You can find information on your local historical society at http://www.aaslh.org.

* Museums: Bring art, science, pop culture or history to life with a trip to a local museum. Guided tours and special student programs help kids engage with the past and imagine the future. Find one near you at www.museumsusa.org.

* Local Businesses: Many local business owners are glad to give students a peek at what goes on behind the scenes. Local businesses can provide a unique learning experience for students with tours and hands-on experiences at a low cost. Whether it's watching how a product is made or seeing how a play gets produced, students will enjoy getting a behind the scenes look into local businesses.

Another way parents can get involved is by sharing information about the Target Field Trip Grants Program with their child's teacher or principal. The retailer launched the program in 2007 as part of its commitment to education. It is designed to promote learning opportunities outside of the classroom for students and educators across the country.

Applying for a Grant
This year, each Target store will award three Field Trip Grants valued at up to $700 to local education professionals throughout the U.S., enabling one out of every 25 schools in America to send a classroom on a field trip. The applications for this year's program will be available August 1 through September 30, 2010, and can be accessed online at Target.com/fieldtrips.


... Continue reading Making Field Trips Possible Despite Budget Cuts.

Tips for Simplifying Back-to-School

From Wanda Urbanska, Simple Living expert and author of The Heart of Simple Living: 7 Paths to a Better Life

• Commit to a successful school year. Sit down with each child and discuss the upcoming school year. Identify each child's favorite activities or memories from past school years and what they count as their greatest accomplishments, as well as their least favorite things about school and the things that cause the greatest difficulty. Write down goals for the upcoming school year.

• Establish a routine. Pay attention to the choreography of daily life - getting kids in the habit of wake-up and before-bed routines can go a long way to providing structure and stability. Whether it's packing backpacks, laying out clothes or a shower schedule, committing to a carefully constructed routine can help parents and kids avoid frantic and frustrating mornings on the way to school.

• Pack lunches in reusable containers. Teach kids healthy eating habits and how to reduce household waste by sending them to school with lunch packed in reusable lunch boxes and food containers.

• Create a "homework zone." Set aside an area that is connected to the main living space, yet sheltered from distractions. Give each child their own space with folders to store important documents, such as homework calendars or test schedules, as well as any materials they will need to complete assignments.

• Slow down and enjoy the moment. Practice the art of listening by taking time to really be present in the moment. Ask questions and pay attention to what your kids have to say about going back to school, including their hopes and fears. Share stories about your own memories from when you were their age.

• Get involved. School is a community, like anything else. Take full advantage of the opportunity to connect with your kids teachers, friends and families of their friends by joining a parent organization, fundraising or activity committee. Attend activities like open-houses, concerts and sporting events together with your child.

• Make it a celebration. The start of a news school year is a ritual and a rite of passage for both you and your children. Acknowledge the beginning of the new school year with something special such as a send-off breakfast, taking a picture or wearing a special outfit.

... Continue reading Tips for Simplifying Back-to-School.

Summer Fun with Science


Kids love summer vacation, but parents often find it difficult to keep them engaged in productive activities. And most kids experience a summer learning slump during their time away from school. According to the National Summer Learning Association, at best, students show little or no academic growth over the summer, and at worst they lose one to three months of learning.

It's possible to give kids a fun way to keep up with learning by providing engaging books that feature hands-on activities. Three new books from DK Publishing will help kids of all ages fill their summer with science fun.

"One Million Things: Space" (July 2010). Perfect for backyard sleepovers and camping trips, this book serves up imagery and information about all things cosmic: from planets, moons, and comets, to black holes, nebulae, distant solar systems and more. Young readers won't be able to wait until sunset to start exploring. Elementary-aged kids will:
* Learn about spherical and irregular asteroids by playing a computer game.
* Find out about volcanoes in the solar system by comparing them to firecrackers.
* Explore the universe with stunning photographic galleries.

backyarda.jpg"I'm a Scientist: Backyard" (July 2010). Part of a new series for younger readers, this book introduces kids to the world of science with a wealth of outdoor experiments. With clear, step-by-step instructions, the book is full of bite-sized experiments that help children absorb science easily. Preschoolers and early elementary students will learn how to:
* Make a sun dial and tell time using the position of the sun.
* Find out a tree's age and then measure its height with just a stick and a piece of string.
* Learn about centrifugal force with a simple bucket of water.

bigideab.jpg"Big Idea Science Book" (July 2010). A comprehensive guide to key topics in science with a unique difference - an online component with 200 specially created digital assets that provide the opportunity for dynamic, hands-on, interactive learning. Older children can learn from video clips and interactive animations that take them:
* Inside plants.
* Around the human body.
* Deep below the surface of the earth.

Help kids flex their mental muscles during the summer with exciting projects and experiments that make learning fun. For more on these and other summer learning books, visit DK.com.


... Continue reading Summer Fun with Science.

Surviving Your Child's Adolescence


Adolescence: "What the heck?!" (Do your kids say that all the time? Mine do.)

By Julie Burton

As I entered the parenting arena nearly 15 years ago, I began to hear all sorts of talk about colicky babies, the terrible twos, and the f-ing fours (sorry, that's what my friends called it). But I noticed that people started to clam up a bit as their kids hit the earliest stages of puberty. When I'd complain about something my toddler was doing, like wetting the bed or throwing food at the dinner table, people with older kids would respond with a little chuckle, "Oh yeah, just you wait." And that's about all they would say. But they would be grinning... in an almost evil kind of way.

Adolescence sneaks up on us and we are almost blindsided by it. It is a FORCE that takes hold of our angelic kids and throws them into an internal turmoil, and one that lasts for years. Adolescents are sweet and kind, they LOVE you; you are the BEST! And then, with a flip of a switch, they HATE you! They are NEVER going to talk to you again, they wish they had different parents, they tell you that you are doing everything wrong, you have no idea how to parent, you DO NOT UNDERSTAND them and that if only you would listen to them, then things would go smoothly. And for a split second you think that maybe they are right. You question yourself as a parent and as a person, "What have I done?!" You wonder if you are indeed qualified for this job. You know you are supposed to remain strong but you feel very, very weak--almost overpowered--but you can't let them see that. You cannot show any signs of vulnerability or wavering because you know what they do with that! They POUNCE!!! And your son is on you once again, explaining with incredible articulation that if he doesn't get to go to the concert that ALL his friends are going to without an adult chaperone, his life will surely fall apart. He will miss the most important event of his life and will NEVER be invited to another social gathering throughout junior AND senior high. His friends will tease him that his parents are over-protective and they will NEVER want to come over to his house to hang out so he just might as well just quit school because he is not going to have any friends! And P.S., IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!!!

It is a very strange time, adolescence. It is a time filled with internal contradictions: A time of independence and neediness; growth and insecurity; confidence and fear; socialization and loneliness. It seems as though you almost have to be a mental health professional to understand how to guide your kids through this time. But do you? Are there some basic presiding principles for parents that can help us to not only survive our kids' adolescence but to actually do some good during it? I am not a professional. I have four kids from the ages of 14 down to 4, and most of the time, I am learning as I go (don't tell my kids). So, I will share some things that I have learned over the years, and then will hand you over to a real professional who will share her insights and tips on raising adolescents by having a better understanding of them and what they are going through.

1) Don't be afraid to say no. Setting limits and sticking to them is crucial to getting your kids to understand and respect boundaries.
2) Know your kids' friends. Know their cell phone numbers. Look at their Facebook pages (as well as your own kid's, of course!) Attempt to know the parents of your kids' friends. And communicate with them. It takes a village to keep adolescents on the straight and narrow.
3) Communicate with your adolescent's advisor or teacher/s. Find out how she is doing is school (not just academically).
4) Take every opportunity to talk with your child. Ask questions. Listen. Remember. Check in. And keep doing this. And when they don't want to talk, come back later and try again, and again, and again. Do NOT give up on keeping the lines of communications open.
5) Remember to be the parent, not the buddy. They have buddies. They need parents to lead, guide, and advise them (even though they would never admit that). Not that you shouldn't have fun with them--au contraire, have a blast! But first and foremost, be a parent, not a playmate.
6) Stay cool when they "freak out." They need the comfort of seeing you stay calm when they are feeling out of control. A parent and adolescent both "freaking out" simultaneously... NOT a good thing (trust me, I've been there).
7) Show them love as much as possible. Even when they are "hating" you, they still need you to love them. And sometimes love comes in the form of tough love: "You can go to the concert with your friends under one condition; I will be sitting in the row behind you."

So, there's my stab at pretending like I know something about parenting adolescents. Who knows, maybe by the time my 4-year-old gets to be 14, I will look back on this advice and have a good laugh. But with a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, I am certainly in the throws of trying to figure things out in the adolescent arena (and yes, still dealing with the f-ing 4s as well...and then there's my 7-year-old who will soon start to sneak toward the big A just as the older ones, please g-d, are through it!). Thank goodness for professionals, right?! So, here is Katy McCormick Pearson who has worked with adolescents for the past 20 years as a special education teacher, Outward Bound Instructor, and currently as the middle school counselor at the Breck School in Golden Valley. Katy is also the mother of two emerging female adolescents:

Adolescence can be an exciting, turbulent, time for both parents and the adolescents themselves. An adolescent person experiences changes in physical development at the rate of speed unparalleled since infancy. An adolescent's brain is not fully developed until a person is about 20-25 years old. The connections between neurons affecting the emotional and physical development are incomplete at this stage. Many adolescents have difficulty controlling emotions, impulses and judgment due to this incomplete yet ongoing brain development.

The upside of the adolescent brain is that teens are able to engage in more logical thinking. They can handle more options and possibilities in this stage of development and, therefore, can begin to grapple with abstract concepts such as faith, trust and beliefs. Many teens become activists during this stage in life and appreciate being taken seriously. They can be quick to see discrepancies with adult's words and actions. There is a strong sense of a need for justice at these ages. Adults can help by including adolescents in developing rules and consequences for themselves. It is important to provide structure for adolescents especially since their judgment/impulse control is not quite effective and many have a false sense of being invincible when in the throws of adolescence.

The main task of an adolescent is to establish their identity. They are in a phase of life between childhood and adulthood. They are starting to develop autonomy within relationships, establishing their sexual identity and learning how to further interact with intimacy in all of their relationships. An adolescent's body is often awkward as different parts align together. Many adolescents are self-conscious and a bit "me-centered."

Parents can help by encouraging healthy eating habits, exercise, and allowing time for those growing bodies to have a good night's rest. Don't criticize or compare your adolescent to others. Patience and understanding is key when living and loving an adolescent. Parents will need to be "the bigger person" and not take many interactions with their son/daughter too personally.

Remember that adolescence is a stage. Enjoy the journey together. Adolescence is a rite of passage and you are the guide.

... Continue reading Surviving Your Child's Adolescence.

Imagine That! Parents' Guide to Playing Pretend

Kids think that playing "supermarket" and dress-up is fun; child development experts know it's much more than that. Pretend play is a learning experience for young children. It lets them explore the world around them and experiment with social and emotional roles. It also boosts problem-solving skills. So pick up a wand or sword, put on a cape and get into your child's fantasy world. Who knows, you might just have fun yourself!

Here are some new additions to old-fashioned make-believe games that you can enjoy together:

Teacher knows best If you plan on playing the role of teacher in this game, take a notebook and write out the entire make-believe school day, class by class, to mimic a typical academic schedule.
Jump to full text of this article here.

... Continue reading Imagine That! Parents' Guide to Playing Pretend.