How do you talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol?
My second grader spent a good part of the morning looking for something to wear that was neon colored. Unfortunately, she left for school this morning with boring, non-neon clothes.
Tomorrow, I expect we’ll have a similar problem, as she looks for tie-dyed clothes to wear. Sadly, our house doesn’t have a lot (none) of neon or tie-dye clothes lying around.
This week is Red Ribbon Week at the elementary school. Every day the students are encouraged to dress to match a drug-free theme. The rest of the week’s themes should be easier; Wednesday is crazy hair day, Thursday is pajama day and Friday is school spirit wear.
Besides the fun of dressing up, teaching students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse is very important. It can be especially tricky talking with elementary age children.
After last year’s red ribbon week, my first grader was extremely worried when she saw her older brother take a couple Ibuprofen pills. She looked up at him and asked why he was taking drugs. It was a great question that started a conversation about the numerous good and bad qualities of safe and illegal drugs.
Having conversations with children and teenagers about drugs and alcohol can be difficult. Every family has different views, beliefs and rules surrounding these topics. My husband and I prefer to give our children as much information as possible.
I like to explain how drugs and alcohol affect our bodies and brains (this Infographics video is very interesting about drinking on an empty stomach), what causes addictions, and why people choose to use drugs or alcohol. Simply telling my kids to ‘say no’ is not enough. I want them to know how to make healthy choices. I want them to know they can ask questions. And most of all, I want my kids to be safe.
The CDC reports that 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States is drunk by people ages 12-20, and 90 percent of underage drinkers are binge drinking. Because I want my kids to be safe, and because I know this statistic, I also tell my children that they can always call me if they have been drinking. I don’t want them drinking, but I really don’t want my children to drive or be in a car with a drunk driver.
On the Red Ribbon website it states: Children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t, yet only a quarter of teens report having these conversations.
Do you talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol? How does your family talk about it?
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Our to-do list for selecting a college
Choosing the right college can be a challenge. My senior has been working for a few weeks to compile a list of potential colleges and relevant information, to help him make the decision.
A lot of parents and their teens struggle to know how to choose the right college, so I thought I would share the process we use to choose the right school:
- Check for the senior’s most updated GPA (either through the school’s web page or by calling the school counselor).
- Obtain the senior’s SAT or ACT score (collegeboard.org for the SAT or act.org for the ACT test).
- Help your senior choose a list of 5-10 schools that admit students within your senior’s GPA and SAT scores, with a few “for sure” schools and a few “reach” schools.
- List tuition, housing and the total cost of attendance for each school (go to each school’s website to gather this information).
- Check the Western Undergraduate Exchange to see if any of the potential colleges offer discounted tuition for out-of-state students, and check the requirements.
- Check each school for potential scholarships.
- Check each school’s application costs (usually around $50 each) and application requirements (some schools require an essay and/or letters of recommendations).
- Check each school for early application deadlines (sometimes applying early can help students who have borderline GPA/SAT numbers get admitted). The deadline for early applications is usually Nov. 1.
- Beginning Oct. 1, fill out the FASFA, regardless of your family’s financial status. Most schools require this information to determine tuition and scholarship information.
- List any other information that might be important to your family (hours from home, degrees or special programs, number of students on campus, weather, public transportation, school ranking).
- Create a “to do” list with appropriate deadlines and check the list regularly.
How do you help your senior apply for college? What factors are important to your family?
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How have Idaho’s free programs helped your future college student?
The State Board of Education has spent over $130 million dollars on programs to encourage high school students to go to college and get a degree. Here’s how these dollars have affected my high school senior:
Before the beginning of my son’s freshman year, he met with his counselor and asked for help filling his schedule with concurrent credit classes. He knew the state offered each high school student over $4,000 in Advanced Opportunity funds to cover the cost of college courses, and he wanted to take full advantage of the free-to-him college money. The credits he has currently earned will cover more than one full year of college, essentially saving him $20,000+ in expenses (the cost to attend Boise State University, including room and board).
His sophomore and junior years he took the PSAT and later in the spring of his junior year, he took the SAT. If the state were not providing these tests for free, at the school, during a normal school day, our family would have had to cover the cost for him to take the PSAT ($17) and the SAT ($49.50). The state has been paying for students to take the PSAT and the SAT, since 2011, with the hopes of increasing the number of high school students who go on to college and get a degree.
And finally, in the mail this week, my son received a letter from the State Board of Education, informing him of all the Idaho public colleges and universities where he’s been accepted, without even applying. This is called the Direct Admissions Program. This program compiles every Idaho public school student’s GPA and SAT scores and pre-admits students, if they meet each school’s criteria.
If my son chooses to go to one of the listed schools, he can go directly to the Apply Idaho website and submit the necessary paperwork to finalize his acceptance to the school of his choice. The application process is also — you guessed it — free.
Each one of these programs has made it easier and much cheaper for my son to pursue his post-secondary education. They have saved him and our family tens of thousands of dollars and have made graduating from college a little bit easier.
Have these programs helped your future college student?
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My schools are making changes to protect kids and staff
I hate the amount of school shootings that seem to occur on a regular basis. I’m not sure if there is any way to totally prevent these types of incidents, but Idaho school districts are trying.
Over the past two years, the West Ada District has worked to install locks and intercom systems at the school’s main entrances. At the middle and high schools, students are required to wear their student ID on a lanyard around their neck. These school ID’s are used to unlock the school’s main doors.
If a visitor wants to enter the school, they have to ring the intercom and explain the reason for their visit. The school’s office staff can also see the visitor through the camera and can choose to buzz the door open.
My child’s elementary school went one step further to protect the students and teachers. They now require parents and visitors to bring a valid driver’s license or government ID if they want to enter the school.
The flyer sent out to parents states; “The scanning of the government ID insures schools maintain a log of all visitors and instantly checks each visitors data (ID photo, name, date of birth, and last four digits of ID) against a database of registered sex offenders in all 50 states and a data base containing information regarding any court ordered protections, custodial arrangements, etc.”
This is so smart. I’m glad the school is working to find ways to keep our children safe from potential shooters and child sex offenders.
What safety measures does your school have in place?
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Early release for seniors is an unfortunate waste
My high school senior has early release. That means he gets done with school every day at 1:07 p.m. That’s right, 1:07 … except on late start Wednesdays, then it’s 1:09.
Ideally, he could use his early release time to work and save for college, but for student athletes that’s not an option. My son needs to be back at the school for practice before 3 p.m.
Normally, he comes swaggering through the door by 1:30 p.m. and heads to the kitchen for a second lunch. When he’s done eating, he goes upstairs for a nap or some down time on the Xbox. Sometimes, he even brings home other seniors with early release.
Right now, it’s 1:45 p.m. and I have two seniors upstairs watching TV, waiting for football practice.
He knows he could be doing more productive things with his mid-day free time, but there aren’t a lot of opportunities. He could be working on his college applications, or job applications, but he prefers to do that in the evening. He is already taking honors, concurrent credit and AP classes, along with sports, so he chooses to use his time to relax. When football is over, he hopes to find a job.
I wanted to make sure I understood why some seniors had early release, so I contacted the school. The counselor explained the graduation requirements and the number of credits needed to participate in sports.
Our high school, like many in Idaho, offers students release time to take a religious course off campus. Because my son did not take any religious courses, he is several credits ahead. He also took some high school classes in middle school, bumping him up a few more credits.
I asked why they didn’t encourage him to graduate a semester early. The counselor explained, he could not take all the senior requirements in his first semester. In order to graduate, seniors are required to take a full year of math, English, and government classes along with completing a senior project.
If my son decides not to participate in any school sports next semester, he could be done with school at 10:52 a.m., or go to school every other day! If he does want to play sports, he would need to take an additional class (not required for graduation) and stay at school until 1:07 p.m., like he is now. It would be great if he could take additional concurrent credit classes, but he has already taken all of the courses the school has to offer.
Early release is an unfortunate waste of educational opportunities. The counselor informed me nearly 80 seniors have early release this year. When I asked what options were available for seniors like my son, she suggested getting a job or taking online college classes. The online courses could even be paid with government Fast Forward funds, provided the student has any left. The school counselors could help him look for online classes, but he would have to go home to take the class. The school does not have any teachers available for seniors who want to stay at school to take online classes.
Maybe early release helps prevent senioritis. Maybe most kids get jobs and work experience with their free time. Or maybe, they just go home and relax, enjoying their last year of ease before adulthood comes rushing in.
Does your school have early release for seniors?
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Seems crazy to allow kids to attend school with head lice
When I was in elementary school, I got lice. I don’t remember how I got it (or more accurately, who I got it from) or how long I had it, but I wasn’t allowed to attend school until the lice were gone.
My mom spent hours washing my hair with special shampoo and combing through every strand of hair with a small metal comb. I remember vividly laying on her lap in the backyard, so she could painstakingly comb, while I painstakingly cried. I hated it and I’m sure my mom hated it, too.
Once my mom thought she had gotten rid of the lice, she took me back to school. Before I could return to school, I had to be checked by the school nurse. The nurse carefully searched through my head and discovered more lice and I was sent home, crying. My mother decided it would be easier and less painful to cut my hair short, rather than washing and combing through my long hair again. After my haircut and more rounds of shampoo and combing, I was finally cleared to go back to school.
Fortunately, my children have never had lice. When my family lived in a smaller Idaho school district, I would frequently receive notifications informing parents that someone at the school had lice. The notification listed treatment suggestions and information about how to check for lice.
I have not received any similar notifications since moving into the West Ada School District. I thought I hadn’t received any head lice notifications because my children had not been exposed to lice at the school. Nope.
There is no policy in the West Ada School District prohibiting kids from attending school with lice, or informing parents about kids at the school being infected with lice. I checked the district website and it says …
“HEAD LICE are tiny insects that live on the human body, typically found in the hair. They spread by head to head contact or sharing clothing or personal items like hats/brushes. Student may attend school, treatment with a lice shampoo and removal of all nits is recommended.”
I was shocked to discover this, so I called my child’s elementary school to see if their school policy was different. The nurse just directed me back to the district website for information.
My friend has children in the Boise School District, and she informed me that her school also allows children to attend school with lice.
It seems crazy to allow kids to attend school with head lice. It seems equally crazy that there is no policy to inform parents of the potential for head lice exposure. If my children are exposed to lice at school, I’d like to know as soon as possible. I don’t want my kids to have to endure the same painful memories of head lice I had as a kid.
Do you know your school’s policy on head lice?
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How do you feel about dress codes?
My eleven-year-old started middle school this year. She was apprehensive about the first day, not because she was going to a new school with new teachers and a totally different schedule, but because she was worried about the dress code.
When her older sister attended the same middle school two years ago, she was humiliated by a male teacher for not abiding by dress code. We had just moved and she was new to the school, had a broken arm and was wearing a sleeveless shirt (to fit over the cast).
To help her younger sister avoid the same embarrassing fate, she warned her sister about the middle school dress code, and the strict guidelines. My sixth grader’s fear of being called out for her clothing choices made starting middle school a little nerve wrecking.
I have done my best to buy clothing that is school appropriate, but it’s difficult to find shorts that are long enough for my very tall and thin daughter. Someday she will love being tall and thin, but right now, finding clothes that fit her waist and are long enough for school dress code is a challenge. It seems her only choices are Bermuda shorts or long skirts, neither of which she likes to wear.
Last year, we didn’t struggle with dress code issues because my girls were in elementary and high school. Both schools have a dress code, but do not make a practice of calling kids out and sending them home if they do not conform. There was no looming fear about a teacher noticing hem lines and sleeve length. My kids wore what they wanted and enjoyed school, and it was wonderful.
School dress codes are a problem, because they are inherently sexist. My boys have never had to worry about their pants being too tight or their shirts being too low. They have never had to have the length of their shorts examined by a school teacher or administrator. Dress codes mostly dictate how a female should or shouldn’t dress, implying responsibility for how their clothing makes others feel.
If we want to teach our kids how to be responsible, shouldn’t we start by teaching them ownership for how they treat others? Shouldn’t schools let the parents be responsible for their children’s clothing choices?
An angry mother, who’s daughter was sent home for wearing a tank top, forwarded me this model dress code policy produced by Oregon’s National Organization for Women. It outlines a safe, non-sexist, approach to school dress codes along with guidelines for enforcement. She is in the process of meeting with her child’s school administrators in the hopes of changing the school dress code. I plan to email my school district with a similar request.
How do you feel about your school’s dress code?
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How do you feel about youth sports?
My kids are getting excited for the first day of school. Not so much about going to class and doing homework, but because they enjoy being with their friends and playing school sports.
I have two kids in middle school this year. They both want to play school sports (cross country and football). As I was browsing the school’s athletic website for information, there was a link to a TED talk. The athletic director encouraged parents visiting the web site to take a minute to watch the clip,called the Changing the Game Project.
From this 14-minute video, I learned seven-of-10 kids drop out of organized sports by the time they turn 13. Kids are told they need to play one sport year-round in order to have a spot on the team and to be competitive. The parents and coaches pressure young athletes to focus on winning and perfection, rather than enjoying the sport.
My kids have felt this pressure. When I asked my 7-year-old if she wanted to play soccer this year, she said, “I can’t play soccer, I don’t know how. And besides, all of the other kids have already been playing for years.” My sister’s kids also experienced the intense pressure to perform well in sports. After nearly a lifetime of playing baseball, my nephew decided to give it up in high school. He said he was burnt out.
The end of the TED talk encouraged parents to change how they treat their kids’ sporting events. Instead of breaking down their performance, play-by-play, all we need to say is, “I love watching you play.” That’s it.
I don’t live under any illusion that my kids will become professional athletes. I just want my kids to enjoy being physically active. I want them to try new sports, even if they are not good at them. Even so, I am guilty of putting too much pressure on my kids, and talking about how they could improve. I was glad to learn a better way to respond to my kids.
How do you feel about youth sports? Has the pressure to “be the best” discouraged your kids from playing?
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What does ‘the Idaho way’ mean to you?
I keep rereading the letter written by Rep. Barbara Ehardt to Boise State University’s President Marlene Tromp. Looking over the many issues listed, there are two statements that resonate with me as a parent: “We need to do things the “Idaho way” and “Idaho’s universities should always seek to treat all students fairly and equitably.”
The “Idaho way” is a beautiful and endearing way to express love for this great state. To every individual who lives here, it can mean something uniquely different. To me, it means being surrounded by people who are kind and courteous. To Rep. Ehardt and the 28 legislators who signed the letter, I imagine it meant something different for each one of them. The beauty of doing things the “Idaho way” is that there is no right or wrong way.
I applaud Rep. Ehardt’s statement to “seek to treat all students fairly and equitably.” I hope that politicians and educators all across the state, work to create programs and laws that treat our kids fairly, from their first day of kindergarten to their last day of graduate school, regardless of their religious affiliation, sexual preference or political views.
Unfortunately, the rest of the letter implores President Tromp to rid the school of select diversity programs and celebrations. If the goal of Idaho’s educational system is to provide “academic excellence”, then celebrating and seeking diversity is essential.
When students and professors have similar life experiences, political views, religious affiliations or opinions, the opportunity to understand and discuss opposing viewpoints is greatly limited. Recruiting diverse professors is necessary to expand the educational experience for both the students and staff members alike.
Embracing and celebrating students with multicultural differences, should be a source of pride for BSU students, just like embracing and celebrating the success of BSU’s athletic programs. Do celebrations for athletic achievements (like the 2007 Fiesta Bowl) diminish the school’s ability to treat it’s non-athlete student fairly and equitably? I don’t think so.
The letter also complains of the schools initiatives to providing training to prevent LGBTQIA+ sexual misconduct. Isn’t this a good thing? As a parent, I want my children’s sexuality (straight or gay) to be protected and respected.
While I support Rep. Edhardt’s goal to encourage BSU’s new president to focus on the equal and fair treatment of students, I am afraid her suggested actions are counterintuitive.
My son is a sophomore at BSU. I hope his classes include a wide array of students, including first-generation students of color, American Indians, new parents, and underrepresented minority students. I hope he gets to know and interact with multiple LGBT students who gently teach the importance of using proper pronouns. I hope his education is enriched by diverse professors and students with differing viewpoints.
Most of all, I hope my son feels his education was enhanced by attending a school that chose to support diversity while simultaneously focusing on academic excellence “the Idaho way”.
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What are some of your favorite places to visit in Idaho?
One of my family’s favorite things to do in the summer is travel around Idaho. My husband and I didn’t grow up in Idaho, so exploring the state with our kids is an adventure. Here is our list of some of the most cherished vacation spots we have found throughout the state:
Northern Idaho; Wallace and the Hiawatha Trail
Wallace is a small town just east of Coeur d’Alene, on the Idaho-Montana border. The town is famous for two things; producing more silver than any other silver mining district in the nation, and it’s regulated, illegal brothels that operated until 1991. There are museums where you can learn more, but my family arrived after closing, so we just looked through the windows.
The Hiawatha Trail begins near Wallace, at Lookout Pass Ski Area. It is a 15-mile-long, abandoned rail line that is now used for biking or hiking. We purchased our trail passes and shuttles tickets (for our return to the top) and rented bikes and head lamps for our ride. The trail has three tunnels that range from one- to three-miles long. It was the most scenic and unique bike ride our family has ever done.
Eastern Idaho; Craters of the Moon
Craters of the Moon is just as unusual as it sounds. It is located southeast of Sun Valley off Highway 26. This National Park covers 600+ square miles of petrified lava flows that oozed out nearly 2,000 years ago. The park is full of caves and trails to explore.
Southern Idaho; Bruneau Sand Dunes
The Bruneau Sand Dunes are located just south of Mountain Home. This National Park features North America’s largest single-structured sand dune, at 470 feet high. Our family prefers to visit early in the spring, before the sand gets too hot. You can also rent boards to ride down the dunes.
Other places we love to vacation are; Hell’s Canyon, Silver Creek Plunge and Tamarack.
What are some of your favorite places to visit in Idaho?
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