I hate doing my kid's homework, a mom's blog

What are your children’s educational accomplishments?

March 20, 2019

This was a great week for educational accomplishments in our family.

First, after weeks of practice, our family was finally able to attend the elementary school play. My first grader auditioned and was assigned a part in the chorus, while my fifth grader decided to help as a stagehand. The play, An Alien Geographic Invasion, was everything an elementary school play should be, educational, funny, hard to hear/too loud, and super cute.

Second, after weeks of researching and writing about Susan B. Anthony, my fifth grader was able to give her presentation. She spent countless hours memorizing her presentation and had a fantastic time making a costume from thrift store items. I was so proud.

And third, my seventh grader turned in his lengthy ABC book report. He wrote an interesting fact from his book (Harry Potter) to correspond with each letter of the alphabet. He found 26 pictures to go along.

I am grateful for the numerous teachers who take the time to teach my kids about teamwork, important figures in history and how to write unique book reports.

What are your children’s educational accomplishments? Feel free to share pictures and stories. I can be reached at [email protected]

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Talking about suicide reduces the risk

March 19, 2019

Four years ago, my 16 year old son told me that he was suicidal. I was shocked and confused. I had no idea he was so unhappy, or had considered taking his own life. I felt like a failure as a parent.

It took several months and lots of open and vulnerable conversations to help our son. We made changes as a family and talked openly about love and acceptance.

Now, I feel like my son is emotionally healthy. He still deals with feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, but he recognizes purpose and value in his life. He has the tools and friends he needs to help him overcome feelings of depression.

Suicide is scary. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding it. I want to help parents have a better understanding of suicide and what they can do. Here is information I learned about suicide prevention from a lecture given by Shannon Miles, MA, LMFT (Licenced Marriage Family Therapist).

Facts about suicide:

  • Those who have survived a suicide attempt, express regret and a desire to live.
  • Some one in the United States dies by suicide every 12 minutes.
  • Most suicidal people do not want to die.
  • Eight out of 10 suicides are male.
  • Suicide has a higher death rate than opioids.
  • Chronic suicide attempts may indicate unaddressed mental health issues.
  • Alcohol and drug use heighten suicide risk.
  • Guns are the No. 1 method used in successful suicides (accounting for 55 percent of all suicides).

The information I found most surprising was the usage (and subsequent deaths) caused by firearms. If you own firearms, do keep them locked in a safe?

Shannon went on to explain how we can all help prevent suicide. One of the best ways to start is to ask questions like, “Are you OK?” and  “Are you thinking about hurting or killing yourself?” People often think that talking about it might make it worse, but it’s just the opposite. Asking about suicide reduces the risk by 70 percent. If someone shares that they are in pain and contemplating suicide, validate their pain. Communicate, “I want you to live and I want to help you.”

If you know anyone that is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please seek help. Talk to a counselor or call the Idaho suicide prevention line,1-208-398-4357. Here is a guide to talking to your child about suicide, at any age.

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Where do you stand on sex ed “opt in” bill?

March 7, 2019

Learning about reproductive health is an essential part of a child’s education. Currently, students that go to public school are given the option to learn about human sexuality at school. Before any sex ed class, a permission slip is sent home and parents have the option to “opt out” if they don’t want their child to attend. This form only needs to be returned to the school if the parents opt out.

A bill (House Bill 120) is making its way through the Statehouse that will change the requirement. The bill requires a permission slip to be filled out and signed by the parents, in order for students to attend the class on sex education.  

If the bill is approved by lawmakers, I am afraid it could impact the amount of sex education our teenagers receive. If fewer students attend sex education classes, due to the lack of parents filling out paperwork, there would be a greater possibility of unsafe sex, unwanted pregnancies and sexual abuse.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website lists each state’s reproductive health statistics. I was surprised to read about Idaho’s teen sexual activity: 37 percent of Idaho’s high school students reported being sexually active. Of those sexually active students, only 58 percent were using birth control. That means, for every 100 high school kids, 37 are having sex and 21 of them are not using any birth control.

I understand, and agree, teaching our kids about sexual health is a very personal subject. Every family has unique principles and beliefs surrounding sexual activity. Would this bill result in more, or less, information being taught to our kids about sexual health?

Where do you stand?

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What’s your experience with teaching your kids to drive?

March 5, 2019

Monday was my daughter’s half birthday.

Normally I don’t acknowledge (or even know) anyone’s half birthday, but my daughter spent all winter counting down the days. I didn’t make half a birthday cake or give her any gifts, but I did sign her up for driver’s education.

In Idaho, 14.5 is the golden age when teenagers can start driver’s education. Only seven other states allow students to start driver training before they are 15 or 16.

I am both excited and scared for my daughter to learn how to drive. I am excited for her to have the freedom to drive herself to and from school, sporting events, work and to visit friends. I am scared for her safety and the tremendous responsibility that comes with driving a car.

Fortunately, Idaho requires all students to take 30 hours of classroom instruction before getting behind the wheel. Once the class is complete (and tests have been passed), students are required to have six hours of instructor supervised driving and six hours of observing other student drivers. Here is a list of requirements and instructions for a teenager to obtain an Idaho driving permit.

Because my daughter is participating in school sports, the course offered through the high school won’t work with her schedule. I was able to find an online course and driving instructor that can fit into her schedule but unfortunately, it costs more than the school’s driver education course.

Did your kids take driver education through the school or a private company?

What’s your experience with teaching your kids to drive?

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Do you talk to your kids about sex?

February 28, 2019

My husband and I try to talk openly with our kids. We talk about a variety of subjects, including politics, religions, sports, friends, teachers and school. We also talk about sex and intimacy. Sometimes the conversations are awkward, sometimes they are silly, but we talk about them.

I grew up with a limited knowledge of sexuality (before the Internet). I knew how babies were conceived and that sex was a form of love and intimacy for adults.

I also knew that one out of every six women in the United States would be a victim of rape, or attempted rape, in her lifetime. This statistic scared me, but I didn’t know how to talk to my parents about it. I wasn’t really sure how to avoid unwanted sexual behavior, or what to do if I became a victim.

I want my kids to have more knowledge than I did. I want my kids to understand how to be safe and the importance of consent.

Our kids are exposed to lots of information about sex. Just this week, they learned the Patriots owner was arrested for soliciting sex and the principal of Fruitland High School was arrested for sexual battery. They know what #MeToo means and they hear about famous people being charged with sexual harassment.

I don’t want this to be the only information about sex they hear. I also want them to learn about safety and consent.

We talk about safety first. We discuss when it is appropriate for other people to see them naked (at the doctor’s office or hospital) and when it is not. We talk about using our words when we feel uncomfortable and talking to adults if anything unwanted occurs. We talk about birth control and sexually transmitted infections.

I also talk to my kids about consent. I explain the importance of consent at every level (hand holding, kissing, etc.) and every time. I even tell my kids that consent needs to be more than a small nod. It needs to be a “hell yes and a high five!” Consent matters, every time.

There are a lot of details to discuss, but we start with safety and consent.

Do you talk to your kids about sex? How do you start the conversation?

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The struggle is real: snow boots and coats

February 20, 2019

I love the snow. My kids love the snow. It’s beautiful and magical, and it usually causes a heated before-school “discussion” (fight) with my kids.

The discussion generally revolves around two issues; coats and snow boots.

My older kids hate wearing coats to school. Their classrooms are very warm (thankfully) and they only need their coat while walking to and from the car or bus. The three-minute walk into the school building does not warrant the need for a coat (they claim). It is also a pain to fit a large coat into their small lockers. Although I feel silly letting my middle and high school kids leave the house without a coat, during a snowstorm, I let it slide.

I just want all the teachers and school staff to know, my kids do own coats, they just choose not to wear them (mom fail).

Fortunately, I don’t have to have the “coat discussion” with my elementary kids. They spend their recess time playing outside, and they like to be warm (mom win).

The second discussion about snow boots is a bit more challenging. For my middle and high school kids, snow boots are out of the question. I don’t even try to start the conversation. They leave the house in their canvas shoes and thin socks and trudge through the snow. Oh well.

Surprisingly, I struggle to convince my elementary girls to wear snow boots. Even with just an inch or two of snow on the grass, I know their shoes and socks will get soaked after the first recess. They protest, “snow boots are hot and bulky.” And, “it’s hard to play in boots during recess and P.E.”

After the last snow storm, I “won” the discussion, and both the girls left the house in snow boots. That particular day it warmed up and all the snow melted by lunch time. It was also the day of the school P.E. jump rope competition. My daughter came home with hot feet, a poor jumping score, and angrily vowed to never wear snow boots to school again.

To sum up my morning, none of my kids went to school with coats or snow boots today (it’s currently snowing with four inches on the ground).

The struggle is real.

Do your kids wear snow boots or coats on snowy days? What are winter mornings like in your house? Email me at [email protected]

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What I learned from Advanced Opportunities night

February 12, 2019

Last week my freshman daughter and I went to an “Advanced Opportunities Night” held at the high school. Neither one of us was eager to go, but I thought the information might be useful for my daughter and for fellow parents.

The cafeteria was packed full of parents and kids who looked as excited to be at the high school in the evening as my daughter and I were. The presentation started with a video explaining honors, AP, concurrent credit, career and technical education and Boise State University’s Sophomore Start and AA program. If you’d like to watch it, here’s a link to the video (it’s nine minutes long, so grab your teenager and some popcorn).

If watching YouTube videos is not your favorite; here are my notes from the evening:

Honors — These classes are accelerated and deeper than regular classes (geared toward the top 10 percent). There are no college credits awarded.

Advanced Placement (AP) — These are very rigorous classes. At the end of the course the student can be awarded college credit, depending on their test score. If they pass the tests, they do not have to take that course in college.

Concurrent CreditThese are college level courses (usually from BSU or the College of Western Idaho) taught at the high school by a certified teacher. The grade received in the course is the grade that will be on the college transcript. Some out-of-state colleges may not accept all the concurrent credits.

Career & Technical Education (CTE)These classes offer specific technical training in a variety of fields like computer programming, welding, plant science, early childhood education, culinary arts, animal sciences and more. Most of these classes need to be taken at a specific high school. In the West Ada District, three high schools offer these courses; Renaissance, Meridian and Centennial. Here is a link, if you want to learn more about CTE programs.

International Baccalaureate (IB)These are two-year courses offered to juniors and seniors. Students study a specific subject matter in depth. Most colleges will give credits for IB classes. In Idaho, IB courses are only offered at North Star Charter, Renaissance High, Riverstone International, Sage International, Wood River High and Wood River Middle School. If you want to learn more about the IB program, click here.

Boise State Sophomore StartThis program is only offered to students in the West Ada and Nampa school districts. BSU works with each student and their advisor to create a degree plan that will help them earn 30 college credits by the time they graduate. Students must have a 3.0 GPA (or higher), be a high school sophomore or junior, and have permission from a parent and school counselor. Some summer courses (taken online or at BSU) may be required. These courses are offered at a reduced rate of $65 per credit (vs. $350). Here is more information about the program.

Boise State Associate DegreeBSU also offers an AA Degree for students attending Eagle or Rocky Mountain high schools. The requirements for this program are the same as the Sophomore Start Program, but they require the student to complete 60 credits (vs. 30) prior to graduation. If your child is interested, you can read the details of the program here. This program could potentially save future college students over $40,000 (considering room and board expenses).

I know this is a lot of information (and you are probably wishing you watched the video instead), but it could make a big impact on your high schooler’s future education (and finances).

Are any of these programs offered at your high school?

Do you have a success story you would like to share? Contact me at [email protected]

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Have you ever joined your child for lunch at school?

February 12, 2019

Once a month, the middle school sends home a Subway lunch order form as a school fundraiser (they make $1 on every order). I like supporting the school and my son likes eating Subway for lunch — but mostly he likes not having to make his lunch that day.

To order the lunch, the students fill out a form and send in the money ($5). As I looked over the paper, I noticed a small statement at the bottom of the page; “If parents would like to order lunch, please print out additional forms and put your child’s name on the top.”

I was thrilled at the thought of joining my seventh grader for lunch! I informed my husband, and he too was thrilled. We immediately printed out two additional forms and marked the date on our calendar.

Our son was not so thrilled.

He has a lot of friends, but he does not hang out with them outside of school. He talks about them and they enjoy playing online games together, but I have never met any of them. I saw this lunch as an opportunity to meet his friends and enjoy a sandwich together.

As the lunch date approached, my husband and I got more and more excited and my son got more and more worried. He kept asking what we were going to wear and if we were really coming (my husband had offered to wear his high school letterman’s jacket).

We both showed up for lunch (in regular clothes) and had a great time. I met several of his friends, and by the end of lunch they were even willing to have their picture taken for this blog. It was fantastic.

I enjoyed it so much, I called my kids’ elementary and high schools to find out if parents could join their kids for lunch. Both schools allow parents to come for lunch, as long as they check in at the office first.

I think next week I’ll join my high school freshman for lunch. She is just as thrilled as her brother was.

Have you ever joined your child for lunch at school? Tell me about your experience at [email protected]

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What’s the right amount of screen time for you child?

January 31, 2019

I recently took all of my kids to the doctor for well-child check ups. The doctor had me fill out the usual paperwork, while my kids had their height, weight, ears and eyes checked. When the doctor asked me questions about my kids eating habits and physical activity, I felt like a pretty stellar mom, but then she asked me this:

“How much time do your kids spend in front of screens per day?”

I felt a pit in my stomach, and suddenly I felt like a bad mom.

I know that kids should not spend a lot of time plugged into their devices (phone, tablet, iPod, Xbox, Wii, computer, television, etc.), but there are so many good excuses for excessive screen time.

This is what my kids say: It’s winter. It’s cold outside. It gets dark really early. I’m worn out from a long day of school. I need my smartphone to communicate with my friends. There is nothing else to do. I have to use the computer to do my homework. I want to play Xbox with my friends.

My kids come up with a lot of reasons to be in front of a screen.

If it was just a kid problem, I think us moms (and dads) could handle it. My real problem, is me (the parent). I am worn out. I want to relax. I need to check my email, my text, my social media, etc. I am bored.

Unplugging is hard. It’s hard for all of us.

The doctor advised me to limit screen time to two hours (or less) per day (not including school assignments). The Mayo clinic and numerous other health websites also suggest the same.

Finding balance is a challenge, but it’s important. These retired educators agree, and have been visiting schools to talk to students about limiting their screen time.

My new goal is limiting screen time to two hours (or less) per day. There are a lot of days we don’t exceed two hours, but now I have a doctor’s excuse to unplug and turn it off. I think we will be spending more time at the public library, playing board games and cooking together.

How much time do your kids spend in front of a screen?

How about yourself?

What does your family do instead of screen time?

 

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Do you know what Idaho spends on education?

January 29, 2019

Before I started blogging for Idaho Education News, I was totally unaware of how much our government spent on education. I knew teachers salaries were low and schools were constantly pushing fundraisers, so I assumed education was underfunded.

While teachers may not make very much money and schools do need fundraisers, it is not because the government doesn’t spend money on education. Did you know that nearly half of Idaho’s budget goes towards education? Here is the breakdown from 2017-18;

2017 - 2018 Idaho Budget
2017 – 2018 Idaho Budget

It is also interesting to note that the average teacher salary in Idaho is $49,740 this year, up from $48,113 a year ago. (some teachers even make more than $60,000).

And here is how schools spend their money; Are you surprised by how much money goes towards education?

2017 - 2018 Idaho Public School Budget
2017 – 2018 Idaho Public School Budget
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What I’ve learned about ‘the talk’

January 23, 2019

My fifth grader came home with a permission slip for the infamous “growth and development” lesson … also known as the puberty talk. She asked me if she needed to go, not because she was embarrassed, but because she already knew about puberty and reproduction.

My daughter and I started talking about maturation years ago. In case you think I am some sort of progressive or modern parent, let me take a moment to clarify, I am not. I have learned and adapted my parenting style over the years, and she is benefiting from her place in the family as the sixth child.

With my oldest children, my husband and I avoided talking about puberty and sex. We said things like, “we’ll talk about that when you get older,” or “you don’t need to worry about things like that.” I wasn’t comfortable talking with my kids about puberty and sex. I wasn’t even comfortable saying the words “sex”, “period”, or “menstruation”. I finally agreed to talk to my kids about maturation the week before the school talked to my kids about it. As you can imagine, the conversation was awkward, filled with pauses and illusive descriptions. I’m not proud of how I handled the talks with my older kids, but I did learn from them.

I learned to answer questions, rather than avoid them. Any question, at any age.

I learned to teach and use the proper names for our body parts.

I learned that if I’m embarrassed, my kids will think that discussing our bodies is something to be ashamed of.

I learned to talk to my kids about gender and orientation.

Now my family talks openly about puberty, sexuality and reproduction. My kids know it is a safe place where they can ask anything and we are more than comfortable answering.

When do you talk to your kids about growth and development?

What do you wish you would have done differently (if anything)?

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What I learned after my daughter’s concussion

January 16, 2019

When my kids sign up for a school sport, I am bombarded with handouts explaining the dangers of concussions. I skim the information and move on. I hadn’t worried too much about the effects of a concussion, until the winter break.

My high school daughter was skiing with friends and fell and hit her head. She was wearing a helmet and goggles, but still managed to get a bloody nose. The fall didn’t knock her out, but left her dazed and surprised. She didn’t think it was a big deal and skied the rest of the way down the mountain.

The following morning, she tried to go about her day, but found it difficult to maintain her balance. She complained of a headache and light sensitivity. I suggested she lay down. Her headaches, sensitivity and a bit of nauseousness persisted for the next several days, but she managed the pain by taking naps, sitting in a dark quiet room, and minimizing her screen time.

After four days of resting, she went to school. She hoped she would be able to go to class and complete her assignments, but by lunch time, her head was throbbing and she called me to pick her up. After a doctor’s exam and CAT scan, I was assured she was recovering from a concussion. The doctor and I discussed her recovery and limited school attendance.

Here is what I learned; every concussion and recovery is different. The brain needs time to heal and overloading it with school work is not helpful. It’s important to protect the injured child while the brain heals.

So I did my mom duty and called the school. I wanted to make sure her academic advisor understood the situation. I explained her limited ability to attend class, take tests and complete assignments. The teachers were very understanding and agreed to pare back her work and assignments until she felt better.

My daughter’s recovery is slow, but improving. Thanks to understanding teachers, she is not overwhelmed with school work or assignments.

Concussions can be serious. If you worry that your child might have a concussion, here is a list of concussion symptoms and when to see a doctor.

Have your kids ever gotten a concussion?

Have you ever needed to talk to the school to modify your child’s school work to accommodate a recovery?

 

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Should parents pay for their child’s college expenses?

January 10, 2019

I grew up in a home where hard work and financial responsibility were very important.

My father started out as a high school teacher with a meager salary, while my mother stayed home with the kids. They didn’t make a lot, but because they were very careful with their money, we had a comfortable childhood. My parents believed in the importance of working and saving, and wanted to teach us the same principles. They did this by giving us multiple opportunities to work and save what we earned.

By the time I graduated from high school, I had held several jobs and had a few thousand dollars saved for college. My parents paid for a portion of my college expenses, but expected me to use my savings and work through college to cover the remainder of the costs.

Now that I am raising a family of my own, I have tried to teach my children some of those same principles. My kids all have chores and get paid for their work. My older kids have part-time jobs (when they are not in sports) and save their money in the bank.

Even with all of this working and saving, it is not enough to cover the cost of college (in-state or otherwise). In fact, when my second son applied to college last fall, the school’s financial aid department informed me of my “expected financial contribution” as the parent … well over $100,000!

Wow.

Unfortunately, we do not plan to contribute a half a million dollars towards his college education.

He plans on paying for college with his savings, some scholarships, some help from us (not in the six-figure range) and a job. If he works part time during school and full time during the summer, he might be able to avoid college debt.

Should parents be expected to pay for their children’s college expenses?

Shouldn’t parents be teaching their kids about financial responsibility?

It is bad to expect our kids to work and pay for their own college education?

What do you plan to contribute towards your children’s college (or other post secondary) education, if any?

Tell me what you think: [email protected]

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Resources for children who struggle over the holidays

December 19, 2018

I grew up in a safe and loving home.

My parents bought me clothes and food. They sent me to school and encouraged me. No one in my house was physically or verbally abused and no one abused drugs or alcohol.

Because my home was a safe place, I have been able to raise my children in a similar manner. They attend school and have goals of higher education and fulfilling careers.

Unfortunately, this is not true for many of the kids in Idaho.

Last year over 800 kids in the Treasure Valley were removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Their parents didn’t know how to provide a safe and loving environment because they themselves were probably not raised in a safe and loving home.

If we want education in Idaho to improve, we need to address children’s basic needs. Kids can’t learn if they are hungry or abused.

I wish I could open my home to all of the children who are hurting, but I can’t. So I will do my best to help, by providing a list of resources:

  • If you suspect child abuse, neglect or abandonment, report it. Here is a link to the numbers.
  • If you are worried about suicide, call the national suicide prevention hotline.
  • If you are looking for ways to help kids and families who struggle, consider volunteering your time at the Family Advocates. It offers free courses (and diapers) to parents and children who want to learn how to improve.
  • If you don’t have time to volunteer, you can donate clothing or household items to the Idaho Youth Ranch. It provides therapy to children who have dealt with trauma, abuse or neglect.

What other resources are available to kids who are struggling? Have any of these programs or organizations impacted your life? Tell me your story: [email protected]

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Gift ideas for teachers, bus drivers and coaches

December 13, 2018

The holiday season can be lovely and stressful.

Let me make it a little less stressful for you by sharing a list I compiled from brilliant parents all over Idaho. This is a list of the gifts they are getting for their kid’s teachers, bus drivers and coaches:

  • Immune-supporting herbs from Nature’s Sunshine, probably echinacea or elderberry.
  • Pampered Chef dip bowls and hot cocoa bowls.
  • A card with a personalized message.
  • Aveda hand cream. Even the travel size is a decent gift. A little goes a long way and teachers have dry hands from handling paper all day.
  • Gift cards, usually Target or a restaurant (I have my son ask what they like) and a handmade card.
  • Bath bombs.
  • doTERRA OnGuard rollerball, OnGuard spray, lip balm , and hand lotion.
  • Personalized tote bags and customized potholders with brownie mix and a silicone spoon inside.
  • Handmade bracelets, a Starbucks gift card, and a hand sanitizer in a pretty little tote.
  • Peppermint bark and hand sanitizer for their desks, in a cute canvas bag.
  • An iced sugar cookie (from a local bakery, in cute little individual boxes) + a $5 Dutch Bros. gift card.

Now that you have a good idea of what gifts to give, you can go and enjoy all of the lovely things about Christmas. My favorites include listening to holiday music as the snow falls, driving past rows of street lamps covered in white lights, and watching school concerts and plays (for some parents, these performances might fall under the ‘not-so-lovely’ category).

Happy holidays!

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Should parents be involved in their teen’s education?

December 11, 2018

I enjoy being involved in my children’s education, but I feel like my help and involvement at the high school level is not wanted.

During the elementary years, there are frequent opportunities for me (and other parents) to volunteer for holiday parties or help with classroom projects. In middle school, I have been able to volunteer for career day and mock job interviews.

My kid’s high school, on the other hand, does not ask for parent interaction. It’s almost like the teachers and staff want parents to stay out of their way. The school and booster clubs happily take my money for sports or fundraisers, but parent involvement in the classroom is not suggested.

Is this evolution of student independence good for our kids, or should parents be more involved?

I decided to ask a few parents to see what they thought. Here are some of their responses:

“Before we moved here I was a high school teacher. As a teacher it was a fine balance between helping students gain independence and involving parents. Personally, as both a parent and a teacher, I don’t feel parent involvement IN the classroom is appropriate. However, I do think parents should and can be involved in other ways for school activities and more behind the scenes things like office help.”

“(There is) nothing natural about parents being cut out of any part of their children’s upbringing. YOU know your child best… YOU are the one responsible for what they are being taught… how their little (or bigger) minds are formed. There is no time that a child needs you more emotional/mentally than the teen years.”

“I think parents should be involved through every level of schooling, however, my understanding is the schools try to promote independence and it’s difficult to do that with the parents standing by. Having said that, if your child is involved in a sport or other extra curricular activity, parental involvement seems to be higher and encouraged.”

“ I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by our high school. Our principal, Benjamin Merrill, is fantastic and really loves to involve parents and the community. Follow him on Facebook and you’ll get a little bit of the feel of the culture he tries to create”

Do you think parents should be more involved at the high school, or is it good to take a step back and let the teachers and students do their thing?

Send me your thoughts at [email protected]

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How do you talk to your kids about vehicle safety?

December 6, 2018

My husband and I regularly talk to our kids about safe driving. We discuss driver responsibility, different road conditions, and influential teenage passengers. Most of the time my kids find this discussion unnecessary and annoying, but last week they realized why it is such an important topic.

Two separate car accidents in the high school parking lot sent students to the hospital.  Both accidents involved teenage drivers. Both were very traumatic. Not only did the accidents cause physical pain, but the young drivers were also affected by the trauma of the accidents.

Accidents can happen anywhere. I called Mountain View High School, the largest high school in the state, to ask about their accident rate and preventive measures. I spoke with an administrator who told me there was only one accident (with injuries) last year. He said schools do their best to design parking lots to allow traffic flow while also minimizing the ability to speed.

Maybe we have to accept that accidents are inherent when hundreds of teenage drivers are flowing in and out of a school parking lot daily. Hopefully kids and parents alike, can learn from accidents like these. We spent time talking with our kids about responsible driving and safety. We also spoke to them about being aware of their surroundings and being a good passenger.

How do you talk to your kids about vehicle safety?

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Teachers everywhere, thank you

November 26, 2018

Thanksgiving was a busy week. I had all my kids at home, including two from college. We spent a lot of time cooking, cleaning and playing games (which caused a few fights). Now that everyone is back at school and the house is quiet, I want to share my thanks.

I am grateful for the many educators and administrators who devote their life to teaching. From kindergarten through 12th grade, each one of my children will have been taught by over 50 different teachers. It will take more than 350 different teachers just to teach my family!

From parents everywhere, I want to say thank you to the teachers. Thank you for choosing to become a teacher. Thank you for recognizing the value of education. Thank you for understanding the importance of one student. Thank you for having patience with grouchy teenagers, loud middle schoolers and distracted elementary kids. Thank you for shaping young minds and helping children succeed in life.

Here are some of the wonderful things you have taught my kids;

  1. The importance of filling each other’s bucket. Acts of kindness are like drops in a bucket. Filling other people’s bucket brings happiness.
  2. How to jump ‘double dutch’ and how to play clapping games at recess. We all need recess, exercise and fun games with friends.
  3. Idaho history; I didn’t grow up here, but thanks to all of the fifth-grade teachers, my kids and I know a lot about the Mountain Bluebird and the Hagerman Horse.
  4. How to play the French horn. I never would have taught my son that!
  5. How to write a persuasive paragraph (it almost convinced me to bring home a puppy).
  6. Life skills, like how to write a resume and interview for a job.
  7. Making Military History class fun, by letting the students make their own cardboard armor.
  8. How to learn and grow from failure, even if it’s a fourth-grade spelling test.

Teachers everywhere, thank you.

What are some of the important/fun things your kids have learned from their teachers?

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Do you think security systems deter school shootings?

November 15, 2018

I called the high school to have my daughter excused for a dentist appointment. She was supposed to meet me in front of the school after lunch, but unfortunately, I was running late. By the time I got to the school, lunch had ended, and she had gone back to class.

I knew my daughter was not allowed to check her phone in class, so texting her wouldn’t help. I had to park and go into the office, so I could call her out of class.

Walking to the building, I remembered the school had recently installed a security system. All exterior school doors were locked and could only be opened with a school identification card (worn by all students and staff, on a lanyard around their necks).

I, of course, didn’t have a student ID card, so I couldn’t open the door. I waved my hands around, hoping someone inside would see me and open the door. Someone eventually did, and I was able to get into the office and get my daughter.

I’m glad the school has increased security. But what about the parents? How are we supposed to get into the building? I called the school to ask, and they informed me of the buzzer outside, I had missed. Parents, or anyone without a school ID, can use the buzzer to request entry.

School security is very important. I wanted to understand what the district was doing to increase security, so I called and spoke with Geoff Stands, a West Ada School District regional director. He told me the district began installing security systems last spring, due to the rise of national school shootings. They planned to install security systems in all of the elementary schools first, because they were less expensive (fewer exterior doors) and had minimal security. They decided to change their focus to the high schools after noting the multiple incidences of non-students walking into high schools. The security systems cost nearly $100,000 per high school and are paid for from the building maintenance funds. West Ada hopes to have security measures installed in every school in the district by the end of 2020.

With all the time and money spent on security systems, I have to ask; do these security measures protect our kids, or are they a large cost with little gain? If a majority of school shooters were students at the school (Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Columbine, Red Lake and Santa Fe High School, to name a few), locked doors wouldn’t prevent a shooting. You can read the list of school shootings in the United States here.

The Washington Post published this article about school shootings and increased security measures. After questioning 34 schools who had experienced shootings, most of them said there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the shootings.

Does your school have a security system? Do you think security systems deter school shootings? What security measures would you like to see at your school?

Tell me what you think: [email protected]

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Scammers — a lesson I forgot to teach my kids

November 8, 2018

There are a lot of things we need to teach our children before they grow up and leave home. With two young adults in college, I thought I had been doing a pretty good job.

When my son called me last week, I realized one lesson I forgot to teach my kids — how to spot scammers.

Scammers have been around forever. They tell you a creative story and then offer something that seems too good to be true.

When I was younger, it was a Nigerian Prince who contacted me. He wanted to flee the country and needed someone to help him move his excessive royal funds into the United States. In exchange for helping him, he offered to pay a large sum of money. Fortunately, I didn’t believe his story or give him any money.

My son was not contacted by a Nigerian Prince. He was contacted by a potential employer.

My son had been looking for jobs, and filling out applications online. When he received an email offering him a job as a personal assistant, he was intrigued.

He agreed to take the job, and this is what he was told:

FIRST TASK

First on the list is the orphanage home donation which I usually do every month, I do make donations to 3 orphanage home every month, You ought to help me purchase some toys and other items which will be donated to the orphanage home. I contacted the orphanage home for the list of toys needed. The toys are so many and it will cost much money and stress to get them shipped. Therefore, We have reached an accord, they will be getting the items themselves.”

The “employer” went on to describe how she would be sending my son a check to cover the donation costs. His job was to wire the money to the “orphanages.” He deposited the check ($1,600) and waited until the next day to wire the money (only $1,400 because he was being “paid” $200 for his work).

I’m sure you know how this played out.

A few days later, the bank contacted him to say that the check had bounced. The money he had wired, had all come from his personal savings. He contacted the police, the wire transfer company and the bank, all with no success. He had just been scammed, and lost over $1,400. Ouch.

I wish I could make his savings reappear, but I can’t. All I can do is help other kids (mine and yours), avoid losing their money to scammers. Here are a few signs to looks for;

  1. Bad spelling and grammar (the above paragraph is full of them).
  2. A quick and easy way to make money (he was offered $200 to make two wire transfers).
  3. Lottery winnings, prize money, shipping fees, or overdue balances from companies you do not use.
  4. Anytime someone asks you to send or wire money.

Have you talked to your kids about scammers? Help them avoid the pain and loss that scammers can cause.  

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