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September 27, 2007

Your posts can make a difference

Here's evidence that your voices on transParent can have a direct impact on our community:

Broward School Board member Stephanie Kraft this week proposed that the district explore ways to tone down its FCAT frenzy after reading a post by transParent blogger Vicki McCash Brennan. The FCAT has long been a pet peeve of Kraft, who opposes how the standardized test has consumed education in the classroom. She already had been thinking about bringing the issue to the board’s attention.

“When I saw that [post], I thought ‘My God, this is exactly where I’m going with this,’” said Stephanie, who first became frustrated with the FCAT as the mother of a daughter in the school system.

In her post, which also was published in the Sun-Sentinel’s Sunday Lifestyle section, blogger Vicki detailed her surprise and frustration at how upfront her daughter’s English teacher was about framing lesson plans around the FCAT. There would be no other curriculum until after the test in February, the teacher announced at the school’s open house.

The post clearly struck a nerve, as dozens of you posted comments, including a few teachers.

“It absolutely summed up what it’s like to be a parent of a child in the school system today,” said Stephanie, who first read the post in the paper. “I could have written it myself.”

So to all of you transParent readers: Keep reading and participating in the dialogue about raising our children.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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Toddlers sleeping with their parents

Last night, we heard my two-year-old daughter whimpering over the monitor. She wasn't wailing, but she was upset.


I rolled over and thought: "Ana Isabel will go back to sleep." However, my wife, Carrie Ann, had another thought. She went into the room to comfort her and decided to sleep with her in the guest bed.

We talked about it a bit this morning, but we really didn't come to a conclusion. Of course, the fear is that while letting Ana sleep with one of us makes for a better night sleep now, it could come back and haunt us in the future.

So what do you think about letting a toddler sleep in mama's or papa's bed?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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September 26, 2007

Stop idling in the carpool line!

As I see SUVs, mega-vans, trucks and other gas-guzzlers waiting for their kids at the bus stop or in front of my kids' schools, I think: Pollution. Global warming. Exhaust fumes. Waste of gas.

carpool.jpgI cannot understand how people idle their cars indefinitely. Aren't they as concerned about our energy problems as I am?

Obviously, the answer is no.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, you should turn off your car if you are going to idle for more than 30 seconds. I think most South Florida drivers would laugh if they heard that.

There are times we must idle our cars. I'm thinking of a slow-moving carpool line where you can't just turn off your motor. Or when it's really, really hot out and you can't leave your car for whatever reason.

But I see cars arrive at our elementary school an hour before school gets out, just so they can be first in line, and they keep their motors running! I see people parking in the school's fire lane, running into after-care to get their kids, and they leave the car on!

Do you idle your car? I would love to hear why. Maybe I am missing something here.

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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September 25, 2007

Too much information

At my son's new school, parents have access to every single grade through an online system called Pinacle. I mean....every quiz, every test, every homework assignment, every classroom participation point that is to be had.

Sounds like a wonderful thing, right? Good parents are "involved" in their kids' education, right? This way I can make sure that Alec is turning in assignments and meeting the standards that we expect him to meet.

But geez. I can't help feeling that here is yet another thing to fret about. Another thing to pressure him about. Another way to be a "helicopter parent."

The first couple weeks was kinda cool, got to feel in touch with his day, got to gloat a bit about the 100s and the 97s and the 94s. We all gathered around the warm glow of the computer and patted him on the back. And then....I can't even say it. But there was a mark that was off the charts (the wrong way) on a math test. A TEST!

Apparently Alec and my husband kept this information from me for a few days (they thought I might react poorly). So when I stumbled on it one night -- and after the initial shock -- I did some soul searching and I have decided that there is such a thing as too much information when it comes to grades. That it probably causes more harm than good to have a parent hovering and harping all the time, especially with an overachieving perfectionist kid.

So I have vowed that I WILL NOT COMMENT on his grades. I will only look at them occasionally and only when he is not around. I will wait until the report card comes out to offer any opinion. (It's going to be very very hard to keep my mouth shut, but I promise....)

I know these tools are there for good reasons. If I had a kid who didn't turn in assignments or didn't always try, Pinnacle would be extremely valuable. But that's not the case with Alec -- quite the opposite. At a certain point, parents of "good kids" have got to let go. Let them fail. Let them figure out how to pick themselves up and keep going. We put so much pressure on kids these days and I know I'm as guilty as anyone.

The last thing Alec needs to worry about is what I will think about every single last little grade. There are too many other things to deal with when you are in 7th grade.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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Ransack the backpack

I don't know why it took me this long to figure out that the best way to keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to your child and his or her schooling is to keep your hands in their nosey.jpg
Over the years as Creed headed toward the 7th grade (that's where he is now, though I think I just made it sound like that was his ultimate goal in life, making it to 7th), he has not always been the best about letting me know that projects are due, that he was supposed to have been reading a book for a report, that he has picture day coming or yearbook money is due, etc. Matter of fact, at Open House the other night, all the other parents were holding a map and schedule that had been sent home via the backpack the day before. EXCEPT ME!
[I asked Creed why he hadn't given it to me, and he said something like, "I didn't know you wanted it." !! Fortunately I had made a copy of the school map and his schedule on my own, and that was a fine substitute.]
But I resolved at the beginning of this school year that I would prowl through his backpack every day. (Obviously I missed a day, hence my showing up without the Open House materials.)
Creed didn't object. I mean, what would be private about a bunch of school papers?
I have found this immensely informative. I find out way ahead of time what long-term project deadlines are coming up, and I actually knew a week ahead of time when the school pictures would be taken.?backpack.jpg

I also rifle through his notebooks and papers to see what he's working on. I found this item in his composition notebook:
"One time I experienced conflict with someone last year. I didn't like this kid and he didn't like me. He was getting on my nerves. So I threw him on the ground a couple of times. Then he punched me. So I punched him like six times in the face, then threw him on the ground. That was how I resolved the conflict because now he never messes with me.''
Do you see what I'm saying here? By snooping in his backpack, I am getting a peek into his mind and soul! He thinks punching someone in the face qualifies as "conflict resolution''!!!
If you think about it, what does a child do with privacy? They hide things from their parents!
Invade the backpack!

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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September 24, 2007

The things you do for your kids ...

I caved. Yep, I have to confess to the world that I am all talk. With just two days until my 4-year-old birthday party, a close friend mentioned that one of her student's parents own a bounce house business. I checked out their website and saw the very cool-looking purple Triceratops bounce house. I was sold. All my railings against party excess went out the window.

Of course, I'm already justifying to myself that a bounce house really isn't excessive (because aren't kids automatically attracted to other kids' toys, and couldn't all the darn toys in my house have kept 10 kids occupied?). Could we have done without it? Yes. Was it in my party budget? Not really? Was it worth it? I heartily say yes, especially because the kids had a fantastic time, and the weather cooperated.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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Report links higher substance abuse to fewer family dinners

You can link probably link addiction and substance abuse to all kinds of family issues, but the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse now offers us data relating children with substance abuse issues to ... family dinner.

Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five or more per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (two or fewer) are much more likely to abuse: prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco and alcohol.

A quick Google search of "family dinners" shows that places are linking up with the report, and tonight is some kind of national family dinner night.

What to talk about? The Pioneer Press in Minnesota wrote about tonight and some possible conversation topics.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231)

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September 21, 2007

School booster shots a real pain for mom

By Cindy Kent
Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer

Raise your hands if you've heard this one before: "Haste makes waste."

I'm here to tell you, as time-starved parents, there is always an opportunity to learn the lesson again. Such as when my son brought me a request from his school this week to have him get a booster shot.

Though he was given the note this week, it was dated a week earlier and the deadline was just two days away. Someone in the school office dropped the ball and had a bad day -- and passed it onto us parents.

My son suggested we go to our family doctor. Since moving to Fort Lauderdale, we have chosen to retain our beloved family doctor, located deep, deep in South Miami. But, wishing to move things along quickly, I decided we'd go to a nearby walk-in clinic.

We waited in a line for about 20 minutes, just to get information on what information I would need to provide in order to get my son a booster shot that day. I should have known that was a bad start.

Long story short, after a nearly three-hour wait we were informed that booster shots were scheduled a week in advance. A walk-in clinic that requires appointments?

Stunned, we left the clinic only to encounter a parking ticket on the car. (What's more, we couldn't find any indication that we parked in a no-parking zone.)

That pretty much set me off. Tom advised me that maybe I should not drive while so angry. "Road rage is a number one reason for accidents," he said. He was right, and I calmed down. We called our family doctor, who was wonderfully accommodating. The 50-mile drive was well worth it.

My timesaving efforts resulted in Tom missing a day of school and me nearly a day of work. I said to Tom, that with more time, I might have planned better -- arranging to see our doctor in the first place.

Tom replied with this bit of wisdom: "No, Mom. You probably would have tried the clinic first anyway because you won't have known what you know now."

Cindy Kent is a Fort Lauderdale mother of three.

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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September 20, 2007

Please. Help me stop my furniture-climbing daughter.

I know small children, like my two-year-old Ana Isabel, can be rambunctious. They like to run around, jump from here to there and climb on things, especially the furniture. climbing.jpg

Ana likes to hop up on the end tables. She'll jump up on down on the couch or love seat. She flings herself across the bed. It can all be a heart-pounding experience. I can't tell how many times I've held my breath thinking: That's it, my daughter is going to break her neck.

My wife and I end up hollering at her to stop. And we have given her plenty of timeouts for her scaling abilities. Of course, we worry she'll hurt herself way worse than the standard bruised knee if she keeps it up.

Any suggestions for handling toddlers seemingly innate drive to go higher and higher? If nothing else, you can help her parent's long-term heart health.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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September 19, 2007

Crocs under fire for injuries to little feet

My son is, what we like to call at home, a “Tonka” kid. He’s rough and tumble like those toy trucks. He has a growing collection of scrapes and bruises on his legs and elbows. He falls. He gets up. He falls again. He gets up.

So I wasn’t too worried when I bought him a pair of rubber shoes earlier this year and he stumbled after putting them on. Big deal. He’s not even three years old yet. But then he began to stumble more than usual. He even cut his lip with a bad fall to the cement after barely taking two steps.

Now I realize my son got off easy.

News began circulating this week about an unusual connection between young children wearing those rubber shoes – many of them Crocs or imitations – and accidents at escalators. A Sun-Sentinel story today reports that the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is considering whether it should put up caution signs to protect pedestrians. The Metro subway system in Washington, D.C. this summer already began doing so, even going so far as to picture a crocodile on the signs.

I spoke with one Delray Beach mother this week whose Crocs-wearing four-year-old son had a near-tragic accident on the escalator at the Fort Lauderdale airport last month.

“He came very close to losing his small toes,” said Micki Salvato, whose son was rushed to Broward General Medical Center and received 24 stiches on his little foot.

If nothing else, the recent spate of accidents should remind parents the value of good, ol' fashion sneakers for young kids who, lets face it, are usually too busy jumping around to avoid, say, walking into a wall. (OK, I’m speaking for my son and all the other clumsy kids of the world.)

After dealing with more than his share of falls, my son now regularly wears sneakers that give him plenty of ankle support – and have dramatically cut down on his spills. Not enough, of course, to get rid of his body art of bruises and scrapes.

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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A bigger (but not better) Claire's....

My kids and I have a joke that anything they buy at Claire's falls apart on the way home. This has actually happened several times. claires.jpg

Of course, this hasn't prevented them from shopping there. They love the cheap, girly-girl knick-knacks, ranging from earrings and lotions to diaries and picture frames.

For years, the Claire's at Town Center Mall in Boca Raton was a claustrophobic place. You had to squeeze through the bursting racks and throngs of pre-teen girls to make your way through the store.

So I was glad to see Claire's moved last week to a bigger space in the mall, right across from the old store. It seems like it's about double the old size.

I felt like I could breathe again as my daughter Rachel sought to spend her birthday money and gift cards. Still, I went outside and sat in a comfy chair in the mall corridor as she shopped, anticipating the tears we would soon experience as she took whatever she bought out of the package and it shattered before our eyes.

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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September 18, 2007

No 'hablo' Spanish

englishonly.jpgWhat are we trying to accomplish with education in Broward County? Do we want our children to be able to get jobs here and to communicate with their fellow man, in Spanish if need be? Or do we want to continue with this English-only emphasis and expect our kids to just point to an American flag when someone tries asking them something in Spanish?

My son enrolled in Spanish I at Seminole Middle School in Plantation, where just like most schools in this melting pot, there is a substantial Hispanic population. Spanish ONE.

Spanish UNO.

Parents, if you saw that your child was taking Spanish I, would you assume that there was a Spanish ZERO where students learned Spanish for an entire year?

My son is the only student in his 7th grade Spanish I class who hasn't already had an entire year of the language.

Concerned about his grade, he asked me to help him get placed in a more basic Spanish class. Sure, that's reasonable, no problem. They must have made a mistake, I thought.

I called the 7th grade guidance counselor. He had no sympathy at all and instead lept to the idea that maybe my son should be removed from all his advanced classes. He suggested I meet with all 8 of my son's teachers to see if he's having trouble in all the classes!

Hello? Are you and I speaking the same language, Mr. Guidance Counselor?

I told the gentlemen my son is not having difficulties in all of his classes, nor does it indicate a learning disability that he hasn't picked up a new language in three weeks.

The man said there is no easier Spanish class, and if you don't take 6th grade Spanish at that school, you essentially have no choice but to enter the new language in 7th grade far behind.

The class qualifies for high school credit, so the man kept telling me, "this is a high school class.''

Hello? Does high school Spanish I start on some higher plane and assume the participants are well versed in Spanish?

Somehow, I think not.

And what if you move to the school in 7th grade? You're just screwed?

Um, well, the guy replied, we've nver really encountered this situation. And you could take sign language, he offered.

SIGN LANGUAGE. Yes, at that moment I thought some sign language might actually help me convey my thoughts.

However, I wondered, is sign language the skill that local employers are seeking when they advertise "language skills preferred''? If a Spanish speaking customer walks in, what is the hand sign my Creed could use for "I only know one language?'

Turns out that unless you are in the top of the academics at my son's middle school, you are not even eligible for Spanish class.

Am I alone in thinking that if our children are going to stay in South Florida as adults, they will need Spanish speaking skills?

Spanish should be required and should start in middle school. At the very least it should be an elective open to all kids, not just the academic elite.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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September 17, 2007

Get your school involved in Walk to School Day

We drive our kids to school, then hurry to pick them up so we can take them to sports or some exercise class.

I've posted it before, but again, why not just walk?

Except this time, there's an event: International Walk to School Day next month. The good news: So far, 88 schools in Florida have enrolled. The bad: Only one is in South Florida, Waters Edge Elementary in Boca Raton.

OK, here's the pitch. Go to the Walk to School Day site, click on the How to Get Started button and take it to your PTA or principal. Send us a picture afterward and we'll post it on this blog.

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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T-Minus 6 days

With less than a week to go until Evan's 4th birthday party, we are in panic level red in my household. Correction -- I am in full panic level -- I don't think my husband really cares and Evan expects everything to go swimmingly.

Why the stress/anxiety/panic over a 4-year-old's party, you may ask? Well, I suppose I wouldn't be in a tizzy if I had just invited the usual suspects (family and friends who have always been part of Evan's life). But now with Evan in preschool, that opened up a new wrinkle. Invite the whole class, even though he's only known these kids for a month? I was not ready for that. 18 kids in my cozy home? No thanks. So at the risk of raising eyebrows among the moms, I let Evan invite the three kids that he seems to hang with the most. (Don't worry, I didn't send the invites to the school, I don't know much, but I do know that's a no-no.)

So now I'm faced with having about 10 kids plus their parents in my house. What to do? It's really HOT outside. I don't have a pool. I've wrestled with the idea of a bounce house, just to keep them busy and get them all tuckered out. But that goes against my previous stance against out-of-control parties. Plus it's not really in my budget. Then again, I haven't completely ruled it out. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

I emailed a magician to find out his prices. His website was promising. I thought the kids would find him hilarious. He promptly emailed me back. Forty-five minutes of his time would cost me $450. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

What to do? I'm sure they can entertain each other, right? And what about food? It's at 3 p.m. That's strategic on my part -- doesn't that mean I can get away with not serving a full meal? Or do people still expect to load up their plates? Can't I just do cake, chips and fruit?

I realize I need to relax. But this is new territory. What are those parents going to think of my lame little party? Do I care? I shouldn't. It only matters that Evan and the kids have a great time, right? Oh, and my resolve about goodie bags is melting as well. Why am I taking my angst about out-of-control parties out on the kids? Candy and favors are not going to break the bank. Bounce houses and magicians will.

Steer me to the Pin the Tail on the Donkey games at the party store, then give me a glass of wine, and I'll be fine.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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September 14, 2007

Cutest. Shirts. Ever.

Looking for a gift idea for a kid? Browsing through the Cool Mom Picks website recently, I came across a link for some unique T-shirts for kids.

Now, I usually don't pay more than $10 for a shirt for a little one, but these shirts are so irresistibly adorable that I didn't mind plunking down $18.95 plus shipping.

Here's the ingenious idea from Amy Lam, who runs Alex and Jett, her T-shirt company named after her two sons. Go online, pick a theme (trucks, dinosaurs, rockets, etc for boys, flowers, princess for girls).

She has created ways to incorporate your child's name, place of birth and year of birth into the design. I ordered the Evanasaurus Rex shirt for Evan (Roaming Boynton Beach since 2003) and the Captain Elias rocket shirt for Eli (service to Mars since 2005, Boynton Beach). I also ordered one for the daughter of a friend. You could do something like "Emily's Flower Garden, Bloom'n since 2001; Boca Raton).

I just received the package last night, and the quality is as good as I had hoped, plus my boys loved their shirts. I also was impressed with the handwritten note included in the package.

Not only do I recommend these as gifts, but I also like the idea of supporting the home business of a fellow mom. And no, I don't know her!

POSTED IN: General (185)

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Teach kids the power of handwritten thank-you notes

By Cindy Kent
Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer

The pen is mightier than a computer or BlackBerry. The value of a hand-written note -- no matter how effortless e-mail is -- is priceless.

When my daughter was looking for her own place to live, she tapped a family friend as a reference. She got the place.

A few days later, I got a call from that friend: "What have you done to your children?" she asked. She laughed, but she was really touched too. She said it just blew her way to receive a "handwritten thank you note for being a reference."

I had no idea, and I was so proud.

My youngest, Tom, age 12, developed a tradition several years back of making his own "cards" for people. For special milestones and holidays, he writes each individual a letter, in his own handwriting. Unplugged. Unedited. It's one of the "gifts" we look forward to receiving now.

This past holiday, we gave Tom a quill pen and ink as a gift. He returned the gesture two-fold when he wrote all his thank-you notes to everyone with that pen. He even impressed himself: He'd been reading a series of classics and said: "Mom, this is how everyone used to write in the old days, like presidents and maybe even Homer."

Cindy Kent is a Fort Lauderdale mother of three.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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September 13, 2007

Cookie cutter kids?

Ana Isabel has her quirks. Instead of standing with her brethren in a circle to sing a song at her Mommy and Me class, she'll step into the middle of it. quirky.jpg

She'll ignore children who want to play with her, oblivious to them it seems. Yet, at times she'll want to share her toys with others. Now, she just turned two. So I don't think any this is out of the ordinary.

Then I read an essay in this week's Newsweek about when to worry that you child may not fit in. When is it time to get him or her diagnosed? Just another thing to worry about, I suppose.

Why does every child who may be different have to have a condition? Isn't kids just being kids, no? What do you think?

Meanwhile, I'll enjoy my daughter's quirkiness. It's incredibly cute, at this point anyway.


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September 12, 2007

You want apple fries with that?

Here's something from the Sun-Sentinel's new blog The Skinny

applefrieslowres.jpgBurger King today made a big push toward making its children's meals healthier with the introduction of broiled chicken tenders, organic unsweetened applesauce and apple slices cut into the shape of french fries. The new items should be appearing in BKs early next year.

According to the Associated Press story, the burger giant will also set nutritional guidelines to follow when targeting children under 12 in advertising, including limiting ads to Kids Meals that contain no more than 560 calories, less than 30 percent of calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of calories from added sugars.

Mommy's gonna order the broiled chicken and apple fries, too.

-- Gail Gedan Spencer

POSTED IN: Food (56)

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Plastic and kids: A dangerous mix?

Each night as I prepare my son’s lunch for pre-school the next day, I write a little note that I tape onto the Tupperware: “Please heat and serve on a paper plate.”

I cram a folded paper plate into his tiny lunch box and hope his teachers don’t think I’m off my rocker for being so particular. My worry stems from renewed concerns about chemicals used in many plastic baby containers, including sippy cups, bottles and bowls. Some studies have raised the question: Are plastics safe?

Two recent stories in the Sun-Sentinel and Los Angeles Times laid out the issues well enough for me to feel justified in being extra cautious about how my son’s food is stored and prepared. As always, the studies are not definitive and are open to interpretation, leaving parents and doctors to discern what they’re comfortable with.

Of course, I only came to learn about the leaching of chemicals from certain plastics AFTER my son was weaned off the bottle. I spent a year nuking those plastic baby bottles in a microwave, inside a contraption that was specifically designed to sterilize them. Sure, I protected my son from food-borne bacteria, but I also may have exposed him to harmful chemicals. Talk about mother's guilt.

What's your take on plastics?

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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September 11, 2007

Water safety lessons begin for Broward kindergarteners

Each fall and spring, Broward public and charter schools take children, mostly kindergarteners, on school time to a local pool to teach them water safety.

The lessons are free. You just have to remember to send your child to school in a swim suit, and pack dry underwear.

It's the county's attempt to address the problem of child drowning in South Florida. We have water everywhere, so we're better off if our children know how to swim.

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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Student aide = unpaid labor

My daughter Abby runs errands, charts school bus arrivals and cleans graffiti off lockers at her middle school in Boca Raton.

She is a "Student Aide," a middle school elective that I allowed because the rest of her schedule is extremely challenging. But as she tells me what she does each day, I am starting to see this elective as a way for the school system to get free labor, which they used to pay adult aides to do.

She is assigned to one of the assistant principals, who is in charge of discipline and bus problems, among other things. Among her tasks is filling in bus arrival times each morning so the AP can see which buses are consistently late.

She runs around the school a lot to find kids the AP needs to talk to, usually about a fight on the bus or on campus. She also listens to the attendance hot-line and writes down who will be absent that day and what their excuse was.

She likes this elective and will get a grade in it. She is definitely learning about the inner workings of her school. But she also is doing work formerly done by grown-ups whom we no longer have the tax money to pay.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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Don't bother me, I'm reading TV

readtv.jpgGreat news, everyone! When it comes to your child's next reading assignment, you might not even have to go to the library. Just have your kid turn on the television and enable the subtitles.

Turn down the volume, heat up some hot cocoa, wrap up in one of those soft, microfiber blankets and read a good television sitcom.

At my son's school, Seminole Middle in Plantation, the students have been informed that this is a suitable alternative to reading something that is on the printed page.

Last week I wrote about the disappearance of books, supplanted by books on CD.

Well now you don't even need a computer -- most of you do have a tv or two or three or four, don't you

If any one of you can tell me how to enable the subtitles I will do so for my son, so he can read this season's episodes of The Simpsons.

I think I'll ask the teachers if he can read that crawler on CNN instead of clipping an article from the paper for his Current Events assignment, too.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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September 10, 2007

How to be a good sports parent

Your child's fall sports season has likely started, which means you've likely sat through his or her games. Which means it's time to review behavior again.

Parents at games can drive me nuts. I love it when they shout "pass!" while the coach shouts "shoot!" And some parents think they're helping if they can get their kid a hit, a goal or a basket; I say the problem comes when parents look at youth sports as education, not entertainment. Pay your money and yell at the Dolphins if you want; at your kid's game, maybe it's better to bring a lollipop. By the time you take it out of your mouth to yell, the play is usually over.

With that in mind, here are five major points in the The National High School Athletic Coaches Association's parent code of conduct.

1. Be a positive role model through your own actions to make sure your child has the best athletic experience possible.

2. Be a team fan, not a "my kid'' fan.

3. Weigh what your children say; they will tend to slant the truth to their advantage.

4. Don't instruct your children before or after a game -- it might conflict with the coach's plans and strategies.

5. If you as a parent have a concern, take time to talk with coaches in an appropriate manner, including time and place.

POSTED IN: Sports (29)

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September 7, 2007

Looking for this video game?

My son has been driving us nuts looking for Action Replay for Nintendo DS. Action Replay provides the "cheats" for Pokemon games ... i.e., the techniques that help you beat the game, according to my son. Apparently it also helps you crack codes in other games, too.

We hit Target, Game Stop and a couple of specialty stores in malls. We could have ordered it on-line, but we're into immediacy.

Anyway, Best Buy near Sawgrass Mills had SEVENTEEN of them in stock. Now they have 16.

Now I'm debating the ethics of helping my son use workarounds to beat a video game. Sinking into an abyss...

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114)

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September 6, 2007

It's all FCAT, all the time

So it’s finally happened. This year, my daughter has teachers who have thrown out all pretense of teaching anything other than FCAT.

Last night at her school’s open house, I sat, stunned, as her English teacher explained that there would be no curriculum other than FCAT practice until after the writing test in February. This is for a class of the most advanced students in the school. “I don’t teach any literature at all until after that time,” the English teacher said. “I’m sure you all understand.”

I don’t understand. Not at all. I’m speechless.

The principal pops her head in the classroom to cheerily tell us parents that this teacher was responsible for ten children scoring the top score of 6 on the FCAT writing exam last year. She’s just great, the principal says. The best in the school!

You know what? I don’t care what my kid gets on that test. I’d prefer that she enjoy expressing herself writing. I’d like for her to be challenged to think creatively. I wish her teachers might at least try not to suck the last bit of pleasure she takes in learning right out of her.

But I sit glumly as this FCAT teacher tells us that children who tested high enough on the test last year to be exempt from a separate reading class would receive extra drills for the FCAT reading test in March, because they don't have reading class.

The social studies teacher, who ostensibly is teaching U.S. history this year, told us that he would be teaching FCAT vocabulary and writing. And careers, so that the children can be prepared to choose their high school majors. And he'll use FCAT science and FCAT math computer programs in his class. Oh, and the children will be given instruction through FCAT Explorer.

Uh? Would there be any teaching of history in history class? Well, he said, the children would learn about the Constitution. Because some of that vocabulary is on the FCAT.

Thank goodness my daughter's geometry teacher really does teach geometry, except for the daily FCAT warm-up that's at a level of math this class mastered two years ago. The science teacher also hasn't completely given up on teaching. She had the kids use the scientific method to test claims in magazine ads – a fun and creative class project. But the science homework comes from a fat green FCAT prep book.

I am nauseated. No wonder my child dreads going to school every day and already is counting the days left in the school year. I guess it was inevitable. How long could the focus on FCAT go on before there wasn’t anything but FCAT left?


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September 5, 2007

Another toy recall? What's a mother to do?

All I can say is thank goodness my girls have outgrown Barbie and Polly Pocket, because I would be in a major fury over this latest Mattel recall if they were still young enough to play with those toys.

CHINA%20TOY%20RECALL.jpg"How many little kids are going to understand that?" my daughter Beth said. "They're just going to think you're mean to take away all their toys. They're going to wonder what they did wrong."

You can't let children play with lead-tainted toys. Young children are most vulnerable, because their brains and nervous system are still being formed. According to the National Safety Council, "even very low levels of exposure can result in reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing, and kidney damage."

No Barbie accessory -- and no toddler tantrum -- is worth that. But it has to be a delicate matter to collect and dispose of toys that your child enjoys. Beth is right. It's not going to be easy to explain to a 3-year-old why she can't play with her Barbie Dream Puppy House or her Barbie kitchen chairs. Sure, it's going to feel like a punishment even though she did nothing wrong. And it's not like you can just go out and get something new -- although some parents will. Not every family is going to have money to replace the bad toys.

I'd love to hear how you're all handling this. What works? What doesn't?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), General (185), Health (111), Toddler (127)

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Her first period... at age 10!

My friend's daughter just got her period. She's only 10, and my friend is very upset.

I am hearing more and more about girls getting their periods at younger and younger ages. Nine is the youngest I've heard of, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are cases of much younger ages.

I keep wondering what the reasons are. Do we feed our girls better than we did 100 years ago, and does this make them mature earlier? Are there hormones in foods and other products, like shampoo and plastic, that are making them absorb more estrogen into their bodies?

This can't bode well for their futures, because we all know too many hormones are connected to cancers, for both boys and girls. Do you have any theories on this early-menstruation trend?

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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September 4, 2007

No more books

Do you still make fun of nerds who create Power Point presentations? You and your child will be one soon.

bashcomputer.jpgWe parents who grew up pre-computers have a rude awakening in store when our kids get into middle school. Get ready to help your kid with their homework using a CD, instead of a textbook. Be prepared to help your child create a Power Point presentation as part of a class project. Help your kid with the software to produce a tri-fold pamphlet that could pass for a tourist brochure.

Get your kid's homework assignment online, at the district's homework website.

Don't say you'll leave all that to the kid. I expected my 7th-grader to know far more than I do about computer tricks and software by now, considering they start in daycare and are all walking around with cell phones and handheld video game systems with online capabilities.

However, I've since learned that kids don't get on the computer to tool around making tri-fold pamphlets. (And for the record, neither do I.)

My son doesn't even know what a BLOG is yet! (Whew!)

So, again, it's Parent Homework.

I have no idea how to make a PowerPoint presentation, nor does my son. But I can guarantee that in a few months, we'll both know the basics.

computerbash.jpgI found out this morning that Seminole Middle School doesn't have enough books for the kids to use at home. So parents were complaining that they couldn't figure out the math homework, with no book to refer to. Can you imagine how maddening>? What are you supposed to do, go to the library on Labor Day weekend and find a general mathematics book and do some research?

The principal's response was that they're "burning CDs'' for the kids to use at home, since they can't afford to buy enough books.

[Mind you the kids have books in the classroom, but they might teach three classrooms so there isn't one book for each student.]

I think this means you all will need a good computer and you better brush up on your skills downloading photos and scanning images and stuff.

I've said it a bunch -- when your kid is in school, so are you. This is what I've learned. I had no idea. My parents didn't help me once with anything. And if you can't do this stuff, your child's grade will suffer.

So now I have to get with the (PowerPoint) program.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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About the authors
Gretchen Day-Bryant has a son in high school and a daughter in middle school. She’s lived to tell about the struggles of juggling little kids and work.
Joy Oglesby has a preschooler...
Cindy Kent Fort Lauderdale mother of three. Her kids span in ages from teenager to 20s.
Rafael Olmeda and his wife welcomed their first son in Feb. 2009, and he's helping raise two teenage stepdaughters.
Lois Solomonlives with her husband and three daughters.
Georgia East is the parent of a five-year-old girl, who came into the world weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces.
Brittany Wallman is the mother of Creed, 15, and Lily, 7, and is married to a journalist, Bob Norman. She covers Broward County government, which is filled with almost as much drama as the Norman household. Almost.
Chris Tiedje is the Social Media Coordinator and the father of a 7-year-old girl, and two boys ages 4 and 3.
Kyara Lomer Camarena has a 2-year-old son, Copelan, and a brand new baby.

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